In appreciation of Alaska the bear, and those who rescued her

Alaska, the polar bear who recently died at the Maryland Zoo, is a touching example of how animals can recover from years of deprived living conditions in circuses if given the opportunity (Polar bear euthanized at Maryland zoo," Jan. 16).

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals obtained videotape showing the Suarez Brothers Circus transporting Alaska and six other polar bears in small cages and making them perform in hot, humid regions of Mexico and the Caribbean. The overheated polar bears were panting constantly while being hit and whipped in order to force them to perform ridiculous, degrading tricks.

When Alaska first arrived at the zoo after being seized, she was skinny, lethargic, filthy and ill. In the caring hands of zoo personnel, a miracle happened. Alaska's battered body and broken spirit began slowly to heal.

Instead of being beaten, she was given tender care. Instead of being jammed into a cage, she could stretch and walk around. Rancid scraps were replaced with wholesome, healthy food. There were no more frightening and confusing tricks.

Alaska's courage, dignity and nobility should stand as testament to all the animals whose health and sanity are sacrificed in the name of circus entertainment. May she rest in peace.

Jennifer O'Connor, Norfolk, Va.

The writer is a staff writer for the advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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