ATLANTA - The world’s oldest male gorilla has died. Zoo Atlanta said Ozzie was found deceased by his care team on Tuesday. He was 61.
Veterinarians do not yet know the cause of Ozzie’s death, but said he did show a decrease in appetite last Thursday. The Animal Care and Veterinary Teams were providing him with supportive care to encourage him to eat and drink.
"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," said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. "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."
A necropsy will be performed by the sity of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
He was among the zoo's gorilla population that tested positive last year for COVID-19.
Ozzie, along with fellow gorilla Willie B. helped to make way for a dramatic rebirth of Zoo Atlanta in the 1980s. He was the only surviving member of the original generation of gorillas who arrived at Zoo Atlanta with the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest in 1988.
Ozzie, the world's oldest male gorilla, dies at age 61. (Zoo Atlanta)
Zoo Atlanta said Ozzie made history in 2009 when he became the first gorilla to participate in a voluntary blood pressure reading. At the time, he was 48 and considered geriatric.
Ozzie 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. His legacy also includes children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren living at other accredited zoos in the U.S. and Canada.
Ozzie, who lived to be the third-oldest gorilla in the world, helped Zoo Atlanta’s Gorilla Care Team to learn about the care of geriatric gorillas, earning the team accolades and highly sought in the field for their expertise. The team has also birthed 24 gorillas.
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered. In the wild, they face threats of poaching, illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade, habitat loss and emerging diseases have reduced western lowland gorilla populations by 60 percent, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa.