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Central Park Zoo’s polar bear, Gus, dead at 27

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(PIX11) – Central Park Zoo’s beloved polar bear Gus passed away Tuesday.

Officials say the 27-year-old bear, who was considered by many as the face of the Central Park Zoo, was euthanized after veterinarians discovered a large, inoperable tumor in his thyroid. In recent weeks, Gus had a low appetite and troubling chewing and swallowing food.

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“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.”

Gus called Central Park Zoo home since 1988.  The zoo estimates over 20 million people visited the bear throughout his lifetime.

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The average life expectancy for male polar bears in captivity is 20.7 years, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

A necropsy will be conducted to determine the exact condition Gus was suffering from.