The 350-pound western Iowland gorilla, Ozzie, died at ZOO Atlanta on Tuesday. No cause of death was given. Known as the oldest male gorilla globally, he has passed away at the age of 61. He was the third oldest gorilla in the world.
For the past week, staff worked to encourage Ozzie to eat. They noticed a decline in his appetite, said the zoo.
“Over the past 24 hours, the teams had been treating him when he presented symptoms including facial swelling, weakness, and inability to eat or drink,” reads the release.
An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
Ozzie lived with his mate, Choomba, with whom he shared the same habitat for more than fifteen years. His death follows the euthanization of Choomba after her health began to fail. She was 59 years old.
According to his biography on the zoo’s website, Ozzie enjoyed spending his time sleeping on his woodpile. Cabbage and oranges were among some of his favorite foods. He learned to communicate with staff by using “reply” vocals and tapping on windows and doors.
“This is a devastating loss for Zoo Atlanta. While we knew this time would come someday, that certainly does nothing to stem the deep sadness we feel at losing a legend,” Raymond B. King, president and CEO of Zoo Atlanta, said in the news release.
“Ozzie’s life’s contributions are indelible, in the generations of individuals he leaves behind in the gorilla population and in the world’s body of knowledge in the care of his species. Our thoughts are with his care team, who have lost a part of their lives and a part of their hearts.”
Because of poaching and illness, the world population of the western Iowland Gorilla has declined more than 60% in the last few decades. The gorillas are now on the endangered species list.
More than twenty descendants survive, Ozzie, stated the zoo. His daughter Kuchi sons Kekla, Stadi, and Charlie are among his offspring still housed at Zoo Atlanta. The rest of his brood lives at other zoos across the United States and Canada.