Some say he died of a broken heart, but the prosaic explanation points to an inoperable tumor found near his thyroid. Gus, New York’s favorite polar bear and the beloved face of the Central Park Zoo, was euthanized on Tuesday at age 27 to the heartbreak of many. The Central Park Zoo estimates that over 20 million people paid a visit to their famous white furry denizen since his arrival in 1988.
Though it’s still a tragic loss, at least Gus had a long and healthy life; the median life expectancy for a male polar bear in captivity is 20.7 years, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. After the death of his 24-year old companion Ida in 2011, however, zoo-goers began to point out changes in Gus’s behavior, describing him as “listless…[and] greatly disturbed by her disappearance.”
Whether or not depression contributed to his precipitous decline, Gus did experience a loss of appetite and the ability to chew and swallow properly. The death of New York’s favorite bear is a tragic blow, and is especially troubling given the grim outlook on the polar bears’ climate change-induced population decline.
Via NY Mag