Ben, Philadelphia Zoo’s 23-year-old Asiatic Black Bear, Dies

Ben, Philadelphia Zoo’s 23-year-old Asiatic Black Bear, Dies

Philadelphia, PA—(November 8, 2017) — Philadelphia Zoo announced today that Ben, a 23-year-old male Asiatic black bear, was euthanized today after being treated for squamous cell carcinoma. 

“We are very sad for this loss. Ben was a remarkable individual and will be missed by the many who came to visit him,” said Dr. Andy Baker, Chief Operating Officer at Philadelphia Zoo. “He received great care from his keepers and the veterinary team during a  long and healthy life here. He was an important ambassador to wild bears, who are increasingly threatened with habitat loss and by poaching, often for parts used in traditional medicines in Asia.” said Dr. Baker.

In April 2017, keepers reported a non-healing wound on Ben’s front paw.  The wound was treated with topical medications, but continued to worsen.  In early June, Ben was anesthetized and the foot lesion was biopsied.  He was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a malignant skin tumor. The Zoo’s veterinary staff consulted with professionals from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School and decided to surgically remove the tumor and adjacent tissue to prevent spread of the tumor.

For a time the surgery appeared successful and the foot began to heal, but by September, the area where the tumor had been removed developed issues again. A repeat biopsy of the paw in October revealed the recurrence of the squamous cell carcinoma, which was invading more deeply into the foot.

The Zoo veterinary staff consulted with veterinary oncologists and surgeons, and given the poor prognosis for successful treatment of this tumor and a good quality of life for Ben, the team concluded that euthanasia was the most humane option.
Ben was born at the Natural Bridge Zoological Park in Virginia in August 1994 and arrived in Philadelphia in April 2002.  During his many years here he was one of the most beloved and most popular animals among Zoo staff and guests alike.

Philadelphia Zoo is home to four other bears including two sloth bears, 4-year-old Kayla and 4-year-old Bhalu, one Andean bear, 28-year-old Rosalita, and one polar bear 36-year-old Coldilocks, who all reside in the Zoo’s Bear Country exhibit.

Asiatic black bears are listed as Vulnerable in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with threats including hunting, trade, and habitat loss. 

Animals are on the move like never before at Philadelphia Zoo with Zoo360, a first-in-the-world system of see-through trails passing through treetops, crossing over pathways and connecting habitats, giving animals like amazing big cats, majestic primates and marvelous meerkats the opportunities to travel and explore. Visit our new baby western lowland gorillas, giraffes, hippos, polar bear, white rhino, zebras, red pandas, Amur tigers and more at America’s first Zoo. Explore
our 42 acre garden and enjoy award-winning exhibits like KeyBank Big Cat Falls, PECO Primate Reserve, McNeil Avian Center and KidZooU, a wildlife academy that offers dynamic displays, rare breeds and hands-on experiences.  Philadelphia Zoo is the second highest ticketed attraction in Philadelphia, one of the region's foremost conservation organizations and home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. By connecting people with wildlife, Philadelphia Zoo creates joyful discovery and inspires action for animals and habitats. The Zoo welcomed more than 1.25 million visitors last year. Philadelphia Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Philadelphia Zoo is a non-smoking facility.  For more information on the Zoo, or to purchase and print tickets online, visit us at, Facebook: PhiladelphiaZoo; Instagram: @philadelphiazoo; Twitter: @phillyzoo.