The joys and heartbreak of love are not a uniquely human experience. There is plenty of scientific evidence to support that. And plenty to support that same-sex love is just as ubiquitous among the species.
Witness the story of Szenja and Snowflake, a pair of female Polar bears who have been close companions for the past 20 years, living in the same enclosure at San Diego’s SeaWorld Wild Arctic exhibit.
Szenja, 21, and Snowflake, 22, have been inseparable. Recently the pair was separated when Snowflake was relocated to the Pittsburgh Zoo to be mated with male Polar bears.
Soon after their separation, Szenja “died from a broken heart,” claims People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“Szenja died of a broken heart, Peta believes. After losing her companion of 20 years when SeaWorld shipped Snowflake to the Pittsburgh Zoo in order to breed more miserable polar bears, Szenja did what anyone would do when they lose all hope, she gave up,” Peta Vice President Tracy Remain told Yahoo News.
Snowflake, prior to her death only weeks after separation, reportedly displayed all the symptoms of separation anxiety and depression, losing her appetite and energy and exhibiting avoidance behavior.
In the video below, taken only four days ago, Szenja is seen playing with a plastic substitute friend. Her handlers were perhaps trying to address her isolation or were at least keenly aware of it.
SeaWorld has been under intense scrutiny in recent years, following the release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” which cast a spotlight on mistreatment of so-called Killer Whales, Orcas that were performers in their Shamu Shows, and whether captivity is good for the animals.
Outrage led to a dramatic decrease in park attendance.
Californians voted last September to ban the captivity, breeding and performing of orcas, and that ban will take effect in June. Shamu Shows will continue at other SeaWorld parks, however.
Activists hope to stop the practice that resulted in the separation of Szenja and Snowfake, a question SeaWorld appears intent on avoiding.
In a statement, Al Garver, SeaWorld’s vice president of zoological operations said only that the company was “proud to have been a part of her life and to know that she inspired people from around the world to want to protect polar bears in the wild.”