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Photo: Bobbi-jo Vial

Taronga Zoo has bid a sad farewell to one of its longest-standing residents today, with Cynthia the Kodiak Bear passing peacefully away at the grand old age of 31.

Cynthia and her sister Bethel have awed Taronga Zoo visitors since they arrived in Sydney in 1985.

The ‘girls', as they were affectionately known to Keepers and visitors alike, were born at Colorado Springs Zoo, spending a few years at Adelaide's Monato Zoo before moving to Taronga. They were well-known for their shaggy brown coatsand their impressive size which reached around three metres when they stood upright.

In the wild, Kodiak Bears usually only live into their 20s, but with special care in Zoos, they live longer.

Cynthia had been had been suffering from arthritis for some time, but her condition had deteriorated and was affecting her quality of life. Cynthia was humanely euthanased by Zoo Veterinarians early this morning, with her keepers watching over her.

"It is a very sad time for both the Keepers and visitors to the Zoo, many of whom have known Cynthia as long as they have come here but her well-being was paramount. She was an inspiration to everyone who saw her," said Carnivore Keeper, Louise Ginman.

"Cynthia's sister Bethel is in good health and we are taking special care to ensure she continues to enjoy a high quality of life. We will pay Bethel extra attention."

"The girls always enjoyed their special foods - fish, vegetables and the very occasional blueberry muffin - and visits from their Keepers. On recent birthdays, the Sydney Fish Market presented the pair with fresh salmon as a treat, which Cynthia and Bethel adored."

Kodiak bears are closely related to Grizzly and Brown Bears, and named after one of the three islands they inhabit off the coast of Alaska - Kodiak, Afognak and Shuyak. With the passing of Cynthia, Bethel is the only remaining Kodiak Bear in Australia.

Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos care for 4000 animals from over 350 species, provide conservation messages to over 1.5 million visitors and conservation education to over 100,000 school students annually. The Zoos also conduct a huge range of conservation research, breeding and in situ projects from Antarctica to Mongolia and throughout Australia and Asia, while providing wildlife health services to thousands of native animals each year.

Kodiak Bears

(Ursus arctos middendorffi)

Range: Kodiak Bears are the largest of three sub-species of the Grizzly or Brown Bear, and are found only on three islands, Kodiak, Afognak and Shuyak, off Alaska.

Habitat: Chiefly forests.

Nature: These bears may reach half a tonne in weight and are very strong, intelligent and despite their bulk can run at 50 kph.

Females protect their young ferociously and any other bear or human approaching cubs will be charged and mostly likely attacked, probably fatally.

Males will fight for mating rights but generally try to mate with as many females as possible, rather than defending one as conflicts with other male bears can have fatal results for both parties

Bears have an outstanding sense of smell but poor eyesight, probably not good enough to distinguish humans from sub-adult bears, which as a matter of course are driven off or killed by mature male bears to reduce competition.

Therefore many attacks are probably  cases of mistaken identity.

Bears normally find human body odours repellent but those living near waste dumps often associate human odours with food, with deadly consequences.

Size: Males are 20 - 80 percent heavier than females reaching more than 440 kg and standing more than 3 metres high at full stretch.

Gestation: 210-255 days.  The bears live to about 30 years in the wild but have survived up to 47 years in Zoos.

Food: Kodiak Bears are omnivorous, living mostly on succulent herbage, tubes and berries, but they will opportunistically take grubs, insects, fish, rodents, small hoofed mammals and carrion.

Coat: Their coat is usually brown, with the long, coarse hair tipped with white giving them the ‘grizzled' appearance that causes them also to be known as Grizzly Bears. Colour may vary from creamy brown to black.

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