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Oldest gorilla in captivity dies in Dallas at age 55

Saturday, September 6, 2008

DALLAS -- The oldest gorilla in captivity, a 55-year-old female named Jenny, has died at the Dallas Zoo -- her home for more than half a century, a spokesman said Friday.

Zoo officials decided to euthanize Jenny on Thursday night because of an inoperable tumor in her stomach. Jenny had stopped eating and drinking recently, and tests showed she was unlikely to recover, spokesman Sean Greene said.

Jenny's keepers described her as sweet though a little bossy.

"If she doesn't want to go out on a certain day, she doesn't," Todd Bowsher, curator of the zoo's Wilds of Africa exhibit, said in May, when the zoo held a birthday bash to celebrate Jenny's longevity. "But she really likes people."

The International Species Information System, which maintains records on animals at 700 institutions around the world, confirmed earlier this year that Jenny was the oldest gorilla in its database.

Jenny was born in the wild and was acquired by the zoo in 1957. She gave birth in 1965 to a female named Vicki, and officials aren't sure why she didn't conceive again. Vicki was sent to a Canadian zoo at age 5.

At the time of Jenny's death she was one of five gorillas at the Dallas Zoo.

Gorillas in the wild normally live to age 30 or 35, but they can survive years longer in a zoo, with veterinary care and protection from predators. Still, of the roughly 360 gorillas in North American zoos, only four were older than 50 as of this spring.

Just last month, another gorilla at the zoo, 43-year-old Hercules, died after undergoing a medical procedure for spinal disease.

In 2004, Dallas police shot and killed a 13-year-old gorilla named Jabari at the zoo after it jumped over a wall, bit three people and snatched up a toddler by his teeth. The enclosure was remodeled and the city paid a fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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