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Zoo’s ailing polar bear Nikita receives ultrasound

Updated: 2013-06-22T02:31:58Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

The veterinary staff at the Kansas City Zoo on Friday performed an ultrasound on Nikita the polar bear in a continuing effort to determine what is causing his illness.

The procedure ruled out any obstruction or impaction in the bear’s gastrointestinal system, zoo director Randy Wisthoff said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“The staff is working their way down the list of likelihoods and options for treatment,” Wisthoff said.

During the ultrasound procedure, zoo staff gave Nikita additional fluids and antibiotics, measured his oxygen levels, took his temperature and checked his vital organs, the zoo said. Blood test results will be available in a few days.

Nikita, a 6-year-old male, has been off exhibit since Monday.

Zoo officials said the test results were a cause for optimism.

“This ultrasound ruled out many scenarios, so we are glad for this,” Wisthoff said.

Nikita is under a close watch during his illness as keepers monitor his eating and drinking as well as bowel movements and urination.

Meanwhile, the zoo’s female polar bear has been observed limping. In a separate statement posted on the zoo’s Facebook page, Wisthoff said the bear, Berlin, was being treated with pain medication for a condition she also had in mid-April.

“At age 23, Berlin is still very spry, but with age comes a few recurring aches and pains,” the posting said. “Rest assured she (is) being closely watched and cared for by a great team.”

Berlin remains on public display.

The two bears were observed mating this spring. Officials hope for a cub, but it is too early to know. Polar bears are threatened as a species as their Arctic habitat becomes warmer and the sea ice they need to hunt seals retreats. Their placement in zoos is regulated by a protocol known as a species survival plan. The Kansas City Zoo is one of about a dozen zoos in North America with a potentially breeding pair.

Nikita came to the Kansas City Zoo in 2010 from the zoo in Toledo. Berlin came here last year from a zoo in Minnesota and went on display in January. They share an $11 million exhibit that features a 140,000-gallon chilled pool and a behind-the-scenes holding area that is cooled to 65 degrees.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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