Gus, the Central Park polar bear, has died. The beloved bear was 27 years old. Gus was euthanized at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Central Park Zoo yesterday.
The polar bear was under anesthesia at the time of his death. Veterinarians were performing an exploratory surgery when they discovered an inoperable tumor near his thyroid.
As reported by ABC News, Gus had been displaying signs of illness. He lost interest in eating and appeared to have trouble chewing and swallowing.
Gus exceeded the average life expectancy for captive male polar bears by seven years. He outlived both of his female companions.
WCS Executive Vice President Jim Breheny explains that the Central Park polar bear was an icon:
“He was an important ambassador for his species bringing attention to the problems these bears face in the wild due to a changing environment. Polar bears are apex predators… but vulnerable in a world affected by climate change brought on by human activity.”
Gus was born at the Toledo Zoo in 1985. In 1988 he moved to the Central Park Zoo.
The Central Park polar bear had an estimated 20 million visitors in the last 25 years. Many New York residents grew up with the bear.
As reported by CBS Philly, Gus helped the Central Park Zoo develop a polar bear enrichment program.
In 1994 the Gus began displaying classic symptoms of boredom. Zookeepers were concerned as the polar bear paced back and forth in his enclosure.
They were inspired to develop enrichment exercises, which included letting Gus forage for his food. Live fish were released in Gus’ tank, and he was provided with challenging toys.
The exercises kept the Central Park polar bear healthy and content for many years.
Visitors to the zoo were devastated to see the empty tank. Gus, the Central Park bear, was indeed an icon. He will be sadly missed.
[Image via Wikipedia]