Central Park’s beloved polar bear Gus was put down by veterinarians yesterday after they discovered a massive, inoperable tumor on his thyroid that made it hard for him to chew and swallow his food.
While the median age for male polar bears in captivity is 20.7 years, Gus, who was born at he Toledo Zoo in 1985, made it to the ripe old age of 27. He also outlived two female companions, Lily who died at the age of 18 in 2004, and Ida, who died at the age of 25 in 2011.
Gus, "was an icon at the Central Park Zoo and a great source of joy for our visitors and staff,” stated Jim Breheny, executive vice president of zoos and aquarium for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “He was an important ambassador for his species, bringing attention to the problems these bears face in the wild due to a changing environment.”
Gus also became the focus of research examining the behavior patterns of polar bears that leave their natural habitats and helped scientists gain a better understanding about animal depression. He also became a “symbol” for the Manhattan zoo and was estimated to have entertained 20 million visitors since arriving there at the age of three.