Today in sad animal news (which, in my opinion, is often the saddest kind of sad news): Gus, the beloved polar bear who called the Central Park Zoo his home since 1988, has passed away at age 27. Arguably one of the most iconic animals of all time (he was once served tilapia by Rachael Ray), Gus first dominated news headlines in 1994 when it was discovered that boredom and depression caused him to swim endless laps back and forth in his pool. He was euthanized while undergoing a medical procedure, during which veterinarians found an inoperable tumor in his thyroid.
Said Jim Breheny, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Vice President of Zoos and Aquariums, “Gus was an icon at the Central Park Zoo and a great source of joy for our visitors and staff. He was an important ambassador for his species bringing attention to the problems these bears face in the wild due to a changing environment.”
I am particularly affected by this loss because, as a bored, depressed child spending weekends at the Central Park Zoo with my mom, I spent countless hours observing Gus through glass as he swam his laps. But Gus outlived the median life expectancy for a male polar bear in captivity by seven years — his companion, Ida, died in 2011 at age 25 — so I find comfort in knowing that he had a good, long run. Or should I say a good, long lap?
I’ll be pouring one out for the homie tonight. In the meantime, check out some videos of Gus doing his thing. [Gothamist]