Africa's only polar bear has died at a Johannesburg, South Africa, zoo at the age of 30, zoo officials announced.
Wang, a much-loved bear who was a major draw for the zoo visitors since coming there as a cub, was suffering from liver and heart failure and chronic arthritis and had to be euthanized, they said.
Brought to South Africa in 1986 as part of a conservation exchange program with another zoo, Wang spent the last few months of his life grieving for his female partner of 27 years, GeeBee, who died of natural causes in January, the Johannesburg Zoo said in a statement.
The zoo said it had decided in 2010 it would not be replacing the aging Wang or GeeBee, who had been inseparable since they arrived at the zoo as cubs, and that decision would stand.
The friendship between the two bears was all the more remarkable given the fact that polar bears are normally solitary animals.
Wang and GeeBee never mated because polar bear reproduction is initiated by cold weather, much colder than their environment in Johannesburg.
After GeeBee died, Wang became listless, refused food and stopped swimming, formerly the favorite pastime of the two bears, zoo officials said.
Wang's health had been failing since being diagnosed as having liver disease in 2010, leading chief zoo veterinarian Dr. Brett Gardner to make the "very tough decision" to have the bear put down, the zoo said.
"At 30 years polar bears are considered to have reached their full lifespan for the species," zoo spokeswoman Jenny Moodley said.
In the wild it is unusual for a polar bear to live more than 20 years, zoo carnivore curator Agnes Maluleke said.
During Wang's final months he was provided with toys, favorite food treats and "his days were filled with enrichment programs and special treats, including his own Valentine's Day celebration," said Moodley.
On Valentine's day Wang was given a box of meat and fruit decorated with hearts and bearing a note saying, "We Love You Wang!"
South African companies also showered Wang with gifts, and one firm even offered a snow-making machine to create subzero temperatures found in the bears' normal Arctic habitat.
Zoo officials declined the offer, saying because Wang had spent his whole life in warm South African temperatures, a sudden alteration in his environment could be deadly given his advanced age.