PHOENIX — The Phoenix Zoo is mourning the loss of its beloved Andean bear, Rio.
The 26-year-old bear was euthanized on Friday after the discovery of a tumor in her bladder.
Zoo officials announced that Rio became lethargic and had stopped eating. During a medical exam, an abdominal ultrasound showed dilated ureters that were partially obstructed due to a urinary bladder tumor.
After careful consideration and discussion between veterinarians, curator and keeper staff about surgically removing the tumor, it was determined the aggressive nature of the tumor would require extensive bladder resection and would unlikely be successful, zoo officials said in a statement.
Rio was born at the Calgary Zoo in 1995 and came to the Phoenix Zoo in 1996 as a ten-month-old cub along with her sister, Mischief, to be the cornerstone of the Forest of Uco habitats.
She was the last original resident of the Forest of Uco. She successfully raised one cub in 2013, Luka, and has been housed with several males.
The Zoo currently houses Agapito, or “Auggie,” a two-year-old male Andean bear who is usually found high up in his favorite tree.
Andean bears, also known as spectacled bears due to the cream/whitish coloring around their eyes, are the only bear species native to South America. The median life expectancy for Andean bears is 26.1 years of age.
Her stubbornness and experience at the Zoo always taught her keepers who was in charge. If Rio did not want to do something, there was very little that would persuade her, except her favorite treats of popcorn and grape jelly. However, if you could earn Rio’s trust, she was the sweetest bear in the world. She was always willing to train with keepers and she was an excellent painter! Some of her favorite activities were tapping her feet while she ate, looking through the window when keepers took too long, and remaking her beds when the keepers didn’t do it correctly. Rio touched so many lives and will be greatly missed by staff and guests alike. - Carnivore Keeper II, Kim.
Rio was an exceptionally smart bear and would always test the new keepers to see if she could trick them into giving her extra snacks when she shifted out to her habitat in the mornings. Even though she was about 100 lbs. lighter than the male bears she shared her habitat with Rio was definitely the boss, forcing her keepers to get creative while tossing the midday diet to the bears in the habitat to prevent Rio from claiming all the food for herself. We will miss her adorable face peering through the night house windows every afternoon to see how close her keepers were to serving her dinner. - Interim Carnivore Collection Manager, Dawn.