Oldest Male Polar Bear in North America Euthanized at Brookfield Zoo
Aussie, the oldest male polar bear in an accredited North American zoo, was euthanized today at Brookfield Zoo. At 32 years old, he was experiencing a number of age-related degenerative diseases.
The high level of husbandry and veterinary care afforded through professional care had allowed Aussie to live for years longer than he would have been able to survive in the wild. Similar to geriatric people and pets, Aussie had slowly developed a number of age-related degenerative diseases. Care staff had been closely monitoring Aussie’s comfort for the past several years, as degenerative arthritis in his legs naturally progressed with age. Aussie had been on a variety of pain relievers, including several drugs used for treatment of arthritis in elderly people and dogs, which kept him comfortable. Over the past several weeks, veterinary and animal care staff noticed a gradual decline in his condition and decreased response to medications, necessitating the difficult decision for euthanasia to prevent Aussie from experiencing discomfort.
“Our primary focus is always the wellness of our animals, said Dr. Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo. “Aussie has been part of our family here at Brookfield Zoo for more than 30 years, and today is a difficult day for our team. However, it is the best decision for Aussie as medications could no longer control the pain associated with his age-related arthritis. Our staff could tell his comfort was really declining and knew it was the right time. It is very similar to the tough decisions that people must make for their pets at home in deciding when to say goodbye.”
Aussie was born at Adelaide Zoo in Australia in June 1985. (Since Australia has opposite seasons, he was born during the summer and not in November or December, which is when polar bears are born in North America) His official name was BIAZ, an acronym for Born In Adelaide Zoo. However, upon arriving at Brookfield Zoo in December 1986, animal care staff started calling him Aussie because he was the first polar bear to come to North America from Australia. Soon after his arrival, he was introduced to one of the zoo’s female polar bears and together they produced five offspring, including Hudson, who just turn 11 and still resides at Brookfield Zoo. In addition, Aussie’s legacy will live on through his nine “grandkids” and four great “grandkids.”
In 2015, imprints of Aussie’s huge paws were featured on a t-shirt for the conservation campaign, “Trees for You and Me,” and the following year his lineage was featured on the t-shirt. The tree-planting conservation program was created through a partnership between the American Association of Zoo Keepers and Polar Bears International. The program’s objective is to raise awareness about climate change that is affecting the polar bear’s habitat and to engage the public to aid in greening efforts.
In addition to Hudson, Brookfield Zoo is also home to a 24-year-old female polar bear named Nan.
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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit CZS.org.