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Camperdown mourns passing of brown bear, Comet

Pictured at Camperdown Park, Dundee, 20th May 2006, is Comet (right), the European Brown Bear, enjoyed a cake for his 20th birthday, with fellow bear Star hoping to get some scraps.
Pictured at Camperdown Park, Dundee, 20th May 2006, is Comet (right), the European Brown Bear, enjoyed a cake for his 20th birthday, with fellow bear Star hoping to get some scraps.

Camperdown Wildlife Centre is in mourning after its beloved male bear Comet passed away after a short illness.

The 30-year-old was among the most popular attractions and greeted thousands of visitors each year.

He was diagnosed last week as having a tumour in his abdomen and deteriorated rapidly over the weekend.

His loss has left staff at the centre devastated at the loss of an old friend, with some having spent years caring for the venerable animal.

Keepers will also be carefully watching fellow bear Star to see how she reacts, though her placid, unflappable nature should be a positive as she comes to terms with life without her “husband”.

Comet was a favourite of visitors and keepers, many of whom had cared for him almost from the start.
Comet was a favourite of visitors and keepers, many of whom had cared for him almost from the start.

Comet, a European Brown bear, arrived in Dundee from Edinburgh Zoo when he was just 16 months old.

He swiftly settled in to his new home and has been a fixture at the centre for the best part of three decades.

A playmate arrived sometime later, in the form of female brown bear, Star, who travelled south from the Highland Wildlife Park to join him.

Generations have since enjoyed visiting the pair roaming their enclosure, playing in their splash pool and enjoying the odd bear-friendly birthday cake.

Wildlife Centre Manager Aileen Whitelaw said Comet had been “an important ambassador” for the centre for almost 30 years and would be “sorely missed”.

Hundreds took to social media to commiserate with keepers and share memories, pictures and video of the bear.

Comet enjoys a good scratch.
Comet enjoys a good scratch.

For keepers, though hugely upset by Comet’s passing, the attention is firmly on Star.

Leisure and Culture Dundee’s Alex Cram said: “Staff at the centre are pretty cut up. For them, it has been like losing a family member.

“Some of them have been with him almost from day one so it is a very upsetting time.

“The main thing now, however, is Star’s well-being.

“How she reacts is a bit of an unknown, though she will obviously miss Comet a great deal.

“Staff will be monitoring her very closely.

“In the future we could look to introduce a couple of young males and I am sure that Star should welcome them. She is fairly laid back.”

Alex said Star and Comet had formed a firm bond after being introduced all those years ago.

“Over the years they always got on reasonably well as “husband and wife”.

“Their temperaments matched well. They were both pretty placid.”

Already a favourite with visitors to Camperdown, Comet came to national attention in 2015 when he underwent a tricky dental procedure.

Like a bear with a sore tooth on the most literal sense, Comet was suffering with an abscess and needed root canal surgery on two of his canine teeth.

The procedure involved putting him under anaesthetic – both stressful for the animal and fraught for staff – and took all day to complete.

European brown bears are close relatives of the American grizzly bear and have an average life expectancy of 25 in the wild.

They can and regularly do live considerably longer in captivity, with some topping 40.

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