S. Korea’s last polar bear dies ahead of British retirement

In this file photo, Tongki eats iced fruits given out to help beat the summer heat at South Korea’s Everland Amusement and Animal Park in Yongin, south of Seoul, on June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2018
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S. Korea’s last polar bear dies ahead of British retirement

  • Tongki — a 23-year-old male named after a Japanese cartoon character of the 1980s — lived in a 330-square-meter (3,500-square-foot) concrete enclosure at the Everland theme park outside Seoul
  • The autopsy results suggested that Tongki appeared to have died of old age

SEOUL: The last polar bear kept in South Korea has died of old age only weeks before his planned departure to better living conditions in Britain, zoo officials said Thursday.
Tongki — a 23-year-old male named after a Japanese cartoon character of the 1980s — lived in a 330-square-meter (3,500-square-foot) concrete enclosure at the Everland theme park outside Seoul.
The zoo had planned to move him to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park next month to allow him to enjoy his final days in more appropriate surroundings — the facility in northern England has a 40,000 square meter polar reserve — and had thrown him a farewell party in June.
But Tongki was found dead on Wednesday night and autopsy results suggested that he appeared to have died of old age, the zoo said in a statement, adding it plans to conduct more tests to determine the exact reason for his death.
The average life span of polar bears is around 25 years and Tongki was the equivalent of around 80 in human terms.
“We have designated this week as a period of mourning for Tongki and decorated his living space so visitors can say farewell,” a zoo official told AFP.
Born in captivity at a zoo in the southern city of Masan, Tongki was the only polar bear still living in South Korea and had been alone at Everland since the last fellow resident of his species died three years ago.
Everland said Tongki will not be replaced, and other South Korean zoos have no plans to import the animals, which are classed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species.


Rake news: Social media ablaze on Trump’s forest remarks for Finland

Updated 19 November 2018
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Rake news: Social media ablaze on Trump’s forest remarks for Finland

  • US President Donald Trump claimed the forest-covered nation prevents wildfires by raking its forest floors
  • Raking-related terms were among the most popular Twitter hashtags and Google searches in the Nordic nation

HELSINKI: Social media in Finland was ablaze with bemused comments on Monday after US President Donald Trump claimed the forest-covered nation prevents wildfires by raking its forest floors.
Speaking to reporters during the weekend while in California to see the impact of devastating forest fires, the US president again blamed forest management, but said Finland had the answer.
Trump cited the Finnish president as telling him Finns “spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things (in the forest), and they don’t have any problem.”
However the Nordic country’s president, Sauli Niinisto, told the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper on Sunday that he had no recollection of raking being mentioned when the pair met in Paris a week ago.
“I told him that Finland is a country covered in forests, but we also have a good warning system and network,” the president said.
Finnish social media users were quick to pile in, describing Trump’s comments as “rake news” and posting pictures of themselves brandishing the garden implement.
By late Sunday, raking-related terms were among the most popular Twitter hashtags and Google searches in the Nordic nation which is 72 percent covered by forests, predominantly of pine, birch and fir.
Meanwhile Yrjo Niskanen, head of emergency preparedness at Finland’s national forest center, said the US president may have been referring to the practice of removing branches and loose material left in the forest after logging.
But he pointed out that this is not done with a rake — and the wood is collected for energy production.
“I’ve never thought before that it could be removed because of the fire risk, that’s not mentioned in any forestry manuals. It’s taken away purely for business reasons,” Niskanen told the Iltalehti newspaper.