South Korea’s last polar bear dies ahead of move to Doncaster’s Yorkshire Wildlife Park

The last remaining polar bear in South Korea has died just weeks ahead of a planned move to Doncaster's Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

Tongki was due to be shipped more than 5,500 miles to Doncaster in November – but officials at his current zoo announced his death this morning at the age of 24.

Tongki was due to retire to Doncaster

Tongki was due to retire to Doncaster

Officials at the Everland zoo in South Korea said Tongki was found dead on Wednesday night and autopsy results suggested that he appeared to have died of old age.

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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 said.

A spokesman for Yorkshire Wildlife Park said: "It is with deep sadness we heard the news regarding Tongki, especially so close to when we were all ready to welcome him to Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

“Our thoughts are with his keepers at Everland."

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Tongki was the last polar bear alive in Korea and plans were already advanced for his retirement at the Branton based visitor attraction.

He would have become the park's fifth polar bear and YWP staff and vets had already performed health checks to check that he was fit to travel from Korea to Yorkshire in November. 

He was born in a zoo in Masan, Gyeongsangnam and relocated to Everland in 1997, where he was considered a star attraction and loved by visitors.

It was planned that he would see out his life alongside current residents of Project Polar, Victor, Pixel, Nissan and Nobby.

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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