Gus, the much-celebrated polar bear at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Central Park Zoo, died last week. He was 27 years old. Gus was euthanized while under anesthesia for a medical procedure conducted by WCS veterinarians. Gus had been exhibiting abnormal feeding behavior with low appetite and difficulty chewing and swallowing his food. During the procedure, veterinarians determined Gus had a large, inoperable tumor in his thyroid region. A necropsy will be conducted to determine the full pathology of the condition. The median life expectancy for a male polar bear in zoos is 20.7 years, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
“Gus was an icon at the Central Park Zoo and a great source of joy for our visitors and staff,” said Jim Breheny, WCS executive vice president of Zoos and Aquarium. “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 – the kings of their domain, but vulnerable in a world affected by climate change brought on by human activity.”
It is estimated that more than 20 million people visited Gus at the Central Park Zoo throughout his lifetime. Millions of New Yorkers grew up with the polar bear. Gus had been at Central Park Zoo since 1988. He was born at the Toledo Zoo in 1985 and came to the Central Park Zoo in 1988. Gus was a media favorite and appeared in many local and national newspapers and television newscasts as the face of the Central Park Zoo. In 1994, he gained media attention out of concern for his repetitive swimming pattern.