One of the Oklahoma City Zoo's gorillas died Tuesday morning, having far surpassed a typical life expectancy.
Zoo officials said the body of Kathy, a 50-year-old lowland gorilla, was found in her favorite hammock in the gorilla day room at the Great EscApe exhibit. A necropsy is being conducted, but her death is believed to be from natural causes.
“She died peacefully in her sleep,” zoo veterinarian Jennifer D'Agostino said. “She has been a very healthy gorilla. She was eating and socializing with the rest of her troop on Monday. I think what we'll find was that her death was due to age-related issues.”
Kathy arrived in Oklahoma City from the Philadelphia Zoo in December 1971, when she was 9. During her time at the zoo she gave birth to eight gorillas, including son George in 2004. George is still at the zoo.
The median life expectancy for gorillas is about 35 years, and often less in the wild. D'Agostino said Kathy's advanced age is a credit to genetics and advancements in care for gorillas including periodic heart exams. One of her only health related issues during her lifetime was the loss of an eye during a fight with another gorilla several years ago.
“She was a very hearty gorilla throughout her life,” D'Agostino said.
Deputy director Alan Varsik said Kathy was a favorite among staff members.
“Kathy was considered the matriarch of her troop,” Varsik said. “She had a gentle and caring nature, and we will greatly miss her.”