The western lowland ape died in the presence of a zookeeper after showing signs of a loss of appetite over several days.
Pete, Woodland Park Zoo’s oldest gorilla, died Sunday night. He was 50.
The western lowland ape, along with his companion Nina, served as “the foundation” of the zoo’s gorilla program when he first arrived in 1969. Over the course of his life, Pete had sired five offspring, four of which were born to Nina. He had 19 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Yola, the zoo’s youngest gorilla, is one of his great-grandchildren.
The life expectancy of wild western lowland gorillas is 32 years, but those in captivity can live up to their 50s, according to the zoo.
“Pete was an excellent companion, father and leader of his group,” Martin Ramirez, the zoo’s mammal curator, said in a statement. “He was known by his keepers as the ‘gentleman of gorillas.’ Pete was an ageless soul who embodied kindness, courage, strength, patience and leadership.”
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The gorilla died in the presence of a zookeeper after showing signs of a loss of appetite over several days, Meghan Sawyer, a spokeswoman for the zoo, said by phone. A necropsy will be performed on his body to determine the cause of death, she added.
Pete’s sudden death follows the passing of another gorilla earlier this year: Leo, who died at age 40 in March. Pete leaves behind 48-year-old Amanda, who was moved to live with him so he wouldn’t be lonely after the death of his lifelong companion, Nina. She had died three years ago, according to the statement.