Monday, September 18, 2017

Farewell to Magnificent Lars

Handsome Lars

Lars in Aalborg

Taking care of zoo animals sometimes means letting them go, sadly. Today the world lost Lars, a beloved and legendary polar bear, to liver cancer.

Aalborg Zoo staff had detected something was wrong in the liver levels of blood taken during a dental procedure for Lars several weeks ago. Medical experts gave him a closer examination with ultrasound and found a large mass in his liver. It was terminal cancer. The best thing would be to end his pain.

In his almost 24 years, Lars has lived in a number of zoos, and many people have come to love him. He was well known as the father of the famous Knut, and also Anori and Fiete, and now the twins at Aalborg.

Lars in Aalborg
Lars was born December 12, 1993 in Munich, and moved to Bremerhaven when he was two years old. He has moved around a bit, living in Munster and Neumunster. He moved in 1999 to Berlin Zoo, where he lived for ten years with three lady bears: Nancy, Katjuscha and Tosca, and where he fathered Knut with Tosca in 2006. When mother Tosca rejected Knut, he was raised by hand by his keepers, and became world famous.

Lars loved his sticks and branches
In 2009 Lars moved to Wuppertal where there was a very nice girl bear named Jerka. In June of 2010, both Jerka and Lars became deathly ill with a mysterious illness that damaged their kidneys and cause serious brain swelling. 20 year old Jerka did not survive. It was a form of zebra virus causing encephalitis. Although Lars survived, it took a long time for him to recover.

Jerka and Lars in Wuppertal
In the fall of 2010, Vilma moved to Wuppertal, and the next year, Vilma gave birth to cub Anori. Lars moved to Rostock, where he lived with Vienna, Vilma's mother.

Lars and Vilma's mother Vienna in Rostock
Lars stayed in Rostock for three years, and Vilma joined him. Vilma gave birth to son Fiete in December of 2014.

Lars (closer) looks over at Malik

Once again, Lars moved to make room for the cub, this time going to Aalborg Denmark.  Vilma also came to Aalborg, but died shortly after her arrival of a somach infection. 

With Malik, Lars fathered cubs Nuka and Qilak, born just last winter.
Lars sniffs at a horse's head, given as enrichment.
 After a sniff or two, he was not very interested.
He was well loved by his keepers in Aalborg, who catered to his personality, always trying something new to interest him. When they heard that he enjoyed rolling in mulch, they immediately made a lovely soft mulch bed for him.

Lars in Rostock

Lars was a gentle bear, not as interested in toys and playing as some bears, but always watching, observing in his later years. He loved his melons and grapes and prunes and chewing on branches and leaves.

Lars in Aalborg, with his yummy leaves

Liver cancer has claimed a great many polar bears in zoos. Bears in the wild have a life expectancy of 18 to 20 years, and have perished before these diseases of old age, but zoo bears get good food and care and so live longer, and thus sometimes get liver cancer.

Lars in Aalborg

And so we have lost a great and legendary bear. He will be missed. Farewell, old friend.

Lars in profile


  1. Good bye handsome Lars... <3 :-(
    Thank you Molly!

  2. Dear Molly
    We were thinking of you on Saturday when we last saw
    Lars. He was exchanging scent communication with Malik. I have posted a final picture of him here