World’s Oldest Male Gorilla, Ozzie Is Dead
The zoo official said in a news release that Ozzie, a western lowland silverback, was found dead by his “heartbroken” care team Tuesday morning.
The cause of death wasn’t known, but last week staff noticed a decline in Ozzie’s appetite and were encouraging him to eat, according to 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. A necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death,” the zoo said.
Ozzie was one of 13 gorillas at Zoo Atlanta who tested positive for Covid-19 last year. Officials said at the time that they believed the apes contracted it from a zoo worker who had been fully vaccinated and was wearing protective equipment. The worker was asymptomatic.
The zoo said it would release the results of Ozzie’s necropsy after it is completed by the University of Georgia’s veterinary college.
“Ozzie was considered a true legend at the zoo and was the only surviving member of the original generation of gorillas who arrived with the opening of its Ford African Rain Forest in 1988.
“He was frequently seen by visitors napping in his favorite space — his wood-wool pile. His favorite treats included oranges and cabbage. And he communicated with staff by using “reply” vocalizations and a series of characteristic raps on doors or windows,” according to his biography on the zoo’s website.
“This is a devastating loss for Zoo Atlanta. While we knew this time would come someday, that inevitability 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.”
Ozzie, who weighed 350 pounds, arrived at the zoo in 1988. He fathered 12 gorillas at the park, which described him as a “terrific father” who disliked loud music and had a taste for oranges and cabbage.
Ozzie has more than 20 descendants. He is survived by daughter Kuchi; sons Kekla, Stadi, and Charlie; granddaughter Lulu; great-granddaughter Andi, and great-grandson Floyd, all of whom live at Zoo Atlanta. The rest of his offspring live at other accredited zoos in the US and Canada.
Ozzie was the third oldest gorilla in the world. The oldest living gorilla is Fatou, who celebrated her 64th birthday last year at the Berlin zoo. Helen, at the Louisville Zoo, turned 63 on Jan. 1.