Elderly Sloth Bear Dies at National Zoo

Wednesday, Nov 4, 2009  |  Updated 8:45 PM EDT
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Elderly Sloth Bear Dies at National Zoo

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WASHINGTON -- A 27-year-old male sloth bear named Merlin has died at the National Zoo after an illness that lasted two days.

Merlin underwent a routine examination Monday, officials said, but his recovery from his anesthetic drew concerns. He also had a history of stomach problems. Veterinarians performed additional tests and surgery to correct a twisted spleen.

Merlin was placed on 24-hour watch for two days but died Wednesday morning, the zoo said.

Merlin was born at the zoo in December 1981 and fathered seven cubs. The zoo has two female sloth bears on exhibit.

Scientists estimate there are 6,000 to 11,000 sloth bears remaining in the wild. They are considered a vulnerable species.

According to zoo records, the oldest male sloth bear in captivity died at age 29.

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