Choomba, a foremother of Zoo Atlanta’s gorilla family, has died at 59.
Zoo officials announced that the aged primate was euthanized on Thursday following an illness. Veterinarians “had been monitoring Choomba closely in recent days following a marked decline in her physical condition due to advanced arthritis and other age-related complications,” they said in a statement.
It continued, “Given her poor prognosis and with concern for her comfort and quality of life, the teams made the extremely difficult decision to euthanize her.”
“This is an extremely difficult day for Zoo Atlanta and most particularly for Choomba’s care team, who knew her intimately and saw and cared for her daily with the greatest dedication,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, Vice President of Collections and Conservation for the zoo.
Choomba was “sassy, strong, independent, feisty, and fiercely loyal to her family,” said Jodi Carrigan, Associate Curator of Primates, according to a farewell post on Instagram. “She’ll be greatly missed.”
Choomba, a Western lowland gorilla, came to Zoo Atlanta in 1988 and became the matriarch of four generations after giving birth to three gorillas in her lifetime — Machi, Kudzoo and Sukari, all of whom still reside at the zoo. “Her descendants include grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandchild living at accredited zoos around the U.S.,” the statement added.
The zoo’s second oldest gorilla until her death, Choomba had been partnered with another senior in their group — Ozzie, 61, now “the world’s oldest living male gorilla,” according to the zoo. Gorillas are considered “geriatric” after the age of 40, they noted.
“Choomba leaves a tremendous legacy at Zoo Atlanta, in the zoological gorilla population in North America, and in the hearts of those who knew her best,” said Mickelberg.