Gus (polar bear)

Gus (1985–2013) was a 700-pound (320 kg)[1][2] polar bear and icon of the Central Park Zoo in New York City.[3] His exhibit was visited by over 20 million people during his lifetime.[3][4] He came to public notice in the 1990s, when he began swimming obsessively in his pool for up to 12 hours a day. Reporters dubbed him "neurotic", "depressed", and "flaky",[3][5] turning him into a "symbol of the stress of living in New York City".[4] As part of his therapy and treatment, Gus was the first zoo animal in history to be treated with Prozac.[6][7]

Gus
Gus the bear.jpg
Gus in November 2011
SpeciesUrsus maritimus
SexMale
Born1985 (1985)
Toledo, Ohio, United States
Died (aged 27)
Known for'Neurotic' residency at Central Park Zoo in New York City
Parent(s)Nanook, Snowball

Birth and early lifeEdit

Gus was born in the Toledo Zoo in 1985. His father, Nanook, was sent to the Toledo Zoo from his home in the Bronx Zoo for the purposes of breeding. Gus' mother was named Snowball.[3] In 1988, Gus was moved to the Central Park Zoo.[3]

FameEdit

In the 1990s, Gus became the "face" of the Central Park Zoo for several media promotions and publications.[8] Gus was seen by an estimated 20 million visitors in his lifetime.[9]

In 1994 zoo officials began noting Gus' unusual behavior in his habitat. He was seen swimming back and forth in a figure eight pattern, again and again, for up to 12 hours a day.[3] Such behavior in captive animals usually points to boredom and stress.[10] The zoo hired an animal behavioral therapist at a cost of $25,000 to determine the reason for Gus' obsessive swimming.[3] According to the therapist, "Gus is just bored and mildly crazy in the way that a lot of people are in New York".[2] He ordered an "enrichment program" for the polar bear that included a redesigned habitat, "challenges" at mealtime, new toys and "positive-reinforcement training sessions".[2][3] In 2002 the BBC reported that zookeepers had installed a jacuzzi to "cheer up" Gus.[11] Gus was also the first zoo animal in history to be treated with Prozac.[6][7] After a few months, Gus' obsessive swimming tapered off, but never disappeared entirely.[3] He and his two partners, Lily and Ida, were featured at the 2005 International Conference on Environmental Enrichment.[12]

From the publicity surrounding his diagnosis and treatment, Gus became a symbol of the "neurotic" New Yorker.[1][2] He was the subject of a 1995 satirical book, What's Worrying Gus?: The True Story of a Big-City Bear,[13] which publishers described as a "timeless tale of the quintessential outsider coping with the harsh reality of New York in the '90s". The cover image depicts Gus in a therapist’s office.[4] He was also the subject of two children's books, Gus the Bear, the Flying Cat, and the Lovesick Moose: Twenty Real Life Animal Stories (1995)[14] and Gus: The Feeling-Better Polar Bear (2009),[15] a play titled Gus[3] and the song "Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park" on the 2004 album In Between Evolution by The Tragically Hip.[16]

PartnersEdit

 
Gus and Ida in April 1999

Gus’ partners were Lily, a female polar bear who died in 2004 at age 17, and Ida, who died in 2011 at age 25 of liver disease. He had no offspring.[3]

Final yearsEdit

According to zoo officials, Gus had exhibited signs of depression since the death of his last partner, Ida, in 2011. In the summer of 2013 he had poor appetite and difficulty chewing and swallowing food. He was placed under anesthesia by zoo veterinarians to determine the cause of his problem; the veterinarians discovered a large, inoperable tumor in the region of his thyroid and decided to euthanize him.[5] At age 27, Gus had far exceeded the life expectancy of polar bears in captivity, which averages 20.7 years.[3]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Kifner, John (2 July 1994). "ABOUT NEW YORK;Stay-at-Home SWB, 8, Into Fitness, Seeks Thrills". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c d Friend, Tad (24 April 1995). "It's a Jungle in Here". New York: 43–50. Retrieved 1 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Kleinfield, N.R. (28 August 2013). "Farewell to Gus, Whose Issues Made Him a Star". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b c Zuckerman, Esther (28 August 2013). "Gus, Central Park's Famously Depressive Polar Bear, Has Died". Atlantic Wire. Archived from the original on 31 August 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b Coscarelli, Joe (29 August 2013). "Gus, the Depressed Central Park Polar Bear, Dead at 27". New York. Retrieved 1 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b Frost, Warwick (2010). Zoos and Tourism: Conservation, Education, Entertainment?. Channel View Publications. p. 51. ISBN 1845412079.
  7. ^ a b "Dogs Feeling Wuff in the City Given Prozac". New York Daily News. 11 January 2007. Retrieved 1 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Leader, Jessica (28 August 2013). "Gus, Central Park Zoo's Polar Bear, Has Died". Huffington Post. Retrieved 1 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Lee, Caroline. "Saying Goodbye to Gus, the polar bear of central park". UPI.com. Caroline Lee. Retrieved 15 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Associated Press (11 February 2009). "Beating Polar Bear Boredom". CBS News. Retrieved 10 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Depressed polar bear cheers up with jacuzzi". BBC. 3 July 2002. Retrieved 10 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ Levine, Edward J. (2006). Central Park. Arcadia Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 0738546275.
  13. ^ Beard, Henry; Boswell, John (1995). What's Worrying Gus?: The True Story of a Big-City Bear. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 0679449507.
  14. ^ Cohen, Daniel (1995). Gus the Bear, the Flying Cat, and the Lovesick Moose: Twenty Real Life Animal Stories. Pocket Books. ISBN 0671536249.
  15. ^ Parrino, Angela (2009). Gus: The Feeling-Better Polar Bear. AuthorHouse. ISBN 1449009506.
  16. ^ "Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park". Amazon.com. Retrieved 10 September 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)