NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Palu, the Virginia Zoo’s beloved 15-year-old Malayan sun bear, has died after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of gallbladder cancer.
“He passed peacefully, surrounded by the animal care team that loved and cared for him,” the zoo wrote Thursday.
Palu showed improvement initially after his diagnosis through targeted treatments and other support, the zoo says, but the cancer was sadly able to quickly spread through his body. The zoo determined surgery wouldn’t improve his quality of life, so they decided to humanely euthanize him after options to keep him happy for the long term were exhausted.
The zoo says Palu was born on Oct. 25, 2008, at the San Diego Zoo, and became a fan favorite in Norfolk at the Asia – Trail of the Tiger exhibit, often found napping in a tree or looking for snack. He loved playing with boxes, paper bags, coconuts and more.
The zoo says he mainly ate fruits, veggies, and more than a pound of omnivore chow a day, but would get a tasty beef shank on Sundays!
Sun bears are native to Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, etc.) and have a yellowish-white patch on their chest that looks like a sun. They have nearly 10-inch long tongues to reach insects, but they also eat fruits, small mammals and birds — an of course, honey. They only grow to about five feet in length and about 150 pounds, helping them climb trees. They typically can live to 25 in the wild and 30 years old in captivity.
Palu shared his exhibit with Suntil, a female sun bear who came from Malaysia. Suntil generally preferred to be left alone, the zoo said.
“We know Palu had many fans, and as we share tribute to this incredibly special, sweet, and intelligent bear, we would love to hear any fond memories you have of him,” the zoo wrote on Facebook. The post quickly had more than a dozen comments.