Saying goodbye to Gus, the polar bear of Central Park

Gus, the Central Park Zoo's polar bear, has died. He was 27.
By CAROLINE LEE, UPI.com   |   Aug. 29, 2013 at 9:45 AM   |   Comments

Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Gus, the Central Park Zoo's beloved polar bear, has died.

Gus had become a symbol for the park and was seen by an estimated 20 million visitors in his lifetime. Veterinarians euthanized Gus on Tuesday after discovering a large, inoperable tumor in his thyroid.

He was 27. The median life expectancy for male polar bears in zoos is less than 21. Gus had lived at the Manhattan zoo since 1988, after he was born in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio.

Back in the mid-90s, Gus became swimming obsessively for hours, as if he were training. He had never done this in Toledo, and so zoo staff ordered expensive therapy.

The animal behaviorist essentially said, after earning $25,000, that Gus was bored.

He got better, but he still became lovingly known as the polar bear that had become a true New Yorker -- and he was as neurotic as the city's reputation would have visitors believe. He swam less than he used to, but still had spurts of obsession. It was not enough to worry zookeepers, though, so they kept Gus entertained the best they could.

The fame it brought Gus made him the most famous of Central Park polar bears. People came just to see him swim in his pool.

Now, New York City has just one polar bear left, 22-year-old Tundra, who lives in the Bronx Zoo.

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