World’s Saddest Polar Bear Passes Away Days Before Being Transferred to a Sanctuary

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By Amanda Froelich

Farewell, Tongki. For 21 years, the lone polar bear spent his days in a concrete pit at the theme park Everland, located in South Korea. Following activists’ persistent efforts to see him freed, he was destined to be transferred to a British wildlife park. Unfortunately, days before Tongki was scheduled to escape his prison, he passed away. 

Until October 17, Tongki was the only surviving polar bear in South Korea. For years, Jiyoung Lee, of the group Action for Animals, advocated for the bear’s release. In 2015, he described Tongki’s enclosure as “small, barren, and terrible.” He noted that it lacked key features that would improve his comfort, such as material to cover the concrete, a proper shelter, and even a proper pool and cooling system. Without these necessities, the bear was forced to endure temperatures in the 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Earlier this year, in response to activists’ outcry, the zoo announced it would be retiring Tongki to a sanctuary. But, the 24-year-old polar bear never made it. “We are crushed that Tongki did not make it to Yorkshire Wildlife Park, where he would have had much-improved living conditions,” advocates wrote online. “Rest in peace, Tongki.”

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Action for Animals

To help protect polar bears in the wild, you can make a donation to Polar Bears International.

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