First polar bear I ever saw in real life was in a zoo in Vereeniging. Yes, believe it or not, there used to be a zoo in Vereeniging. If you don’t know Vereeniging, it’s a medium-sized industrial town in the heart of what used to be called the Vaal Triangle, south of Johannesburg, the other two legs of the triangle being Vanderbijlpark and Sasolburg. I don’t mean to insult the Vaal Triangle, there are one or two nice bits, but for the most part they are places where you don’t breathe in too deeply. You might as well smoke, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, there was a zoo in Vereeniging and it had a polar bear, probably the worst possible fate for any animal, especially one designed for polar regions, not sweltering, dirty, Vereeniging in summer. This poor bear also had a great ugly sore over his nose, apparently the result of a brick hurled by some sick sadist. The air quality had a corrosive effect on the brain too. Apparently.
I don’t know what happened to the poor bear, hopefully some philanthropist posted him back to Alaska, but thankfully the zoo is no more. The coughing animals are gone and the place is being used for something dead useful like a railway siding or a shopping centre.