The North Carolina Zoo announced the loss of male polar bear Payton on Oct. 25. Payton was being transferred to the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky as part of a polar bear breeding partnership recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
During the transfer, the care team, which accompanied Payton, performed routine checks on the 1,000-pound bear. Less than two hours into the trip, the team found Payton unresponsive. He was immediately transported to a nearby large animal veterinarian, who confirmed Payton had passed.
The bear was returned to the North Carolina Zoo, where a necropsy was conducted by zoo veterinary staff.
“The necropsy indicated some evidence of cardiac disease, a tumor on his adrenal gland as well as some moderate osteoarthritis in keeping with his advanced age,” said Dr. Jb Minter, the Zoo’s Director of Animal Health. Tissue samples will be sent to outside laboratories for further testing to help determine the cause of death.
A full investigation into the incident will be conducted.
Payton arrived at the North Carolina Zoo in January 2021 to be a mate for female polar bear Anana, as recommended by the AZA, in an attempt to foster more cub births. He was previously at the Memphis Zoo and was born at Brookfield Zoo on Nov. 8, 2003.
Polar bear keeper Melissa Vindigni said, “He was the best boy bear. His trust was worth the effort to earn and it was a privilege and honor to have earned that. I will never forget the things he taught me.”