Dallas Zoo's Other Jenny, the World's Oldest Captive Gorilla, Is Dead at 55

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On May 8, Jenny, a western lowland gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, celebrated her 55th birthday "by munching down a four-layer frozen fruit cake and banana leaf wrapped treats," as the Associated Press noted. Jenny's birthday was significant, as she was the world's oldest gorilla in captivity. And, at the time: "Jenny's caretakers at the Dallas Zoo say she's having a few joint issues and her eyesight isn't what it used to be but she still looks good for an old ape."

Only, according to the Dallas Zoo media release that just arrived in our in-box, Jenny died yesterday due to an inoperable stomach tumor. Zoo spokesman Sean Greene tells Unfair Park she was euthanized last night after a team of gastroenterologists decided the tumor was inoperable. "There's some heavy hearts out here," he says, "because she's been out here since 1957." Notes the media release: "The tumor, which was located in her stomach, had begun to interfere with her eating and drinking. Jenny had not been eating normally and had recently been showing signs of dehydration, despite zookeeper, veterinary, and nutritionist attempts to provide her with food and liquids." The entire release follows -- as does an extraordinary photo of Jenny shortly after she was brought to the zoo in 1957. --Robert Wilonsky

Jenny, shortly after she was brought to the Dallas Zoo in 1957

World’s Oldest Gorilla Passes Away

DALLAS – The oldest gorilla in the world has passed away at 55 years of age. Jenny, a Western lowland gorilla, passed away September 4th as a result of an inoperable tumor. The tumor, which was located in her stomach, had begun to interfere with her eating and drinking. Jenny had not been eating normally and had recently been showing signs of dehydration, despite zookeeper, veterinary, and nutritionist attempts to provide her with food and liquids. The Dallas Zoo’s veterinary team, in conjunction with local gastroenterology experts, made the diagnosis following an endoscopy exam. Necropsy and histopathology findings will provide more specific results.

The Western lowland gorilla received national attention this spring as she celebrated her 55th birthday with Dallas Zoo staff, volunteers, and the many fans whose lives had been touched by this special gorilla. She enjoyed a special frozen fruit cake as part of this historic celebration. Surprise presents wrapped in leaves added enrichment to the special day. Fans expressed their love for her by signing a large birthday card and many dropped off cell phones for recycling to support conservation efforts in native African habitats.

“We were fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate her 55th birthday with several generations of staff, volunteers, and Zoo supporters,” said Todd Bowsher, Ph.D., curator of mammals in the Wilds of Africa. “So many people reminisced about seeing Jenny during their childhood and brought their children back to meet her for the party. We had a tough time saying goodbye.”

According to global animal records managed through the International Species Information System (ISIS), Jenny was the oldest gorilla ever to be documented on ISIS records. More than 700 institutions around the world report their collection to ISIS. She lived at the Dallas Zoo for more than 50 years and was one of only four gorillas over the age of 50 in North American zoos.

“She touched so many people’s lives and helped them appreciate this endangered species,” said Chuck Siegel, deputy director for animal management. "Her longevity is a testament to the outstanding animal care that the Dallas Zoo provides for wildlife. Her legacy will live on through our commitment to educating the public about the importance of gorilla conservation, and continuing our efforts to protect gorillas in the wild."

Jenny lived with Timbo, 46, in the north habitat of the Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center. In addition to Timbo, the Zoo has three other gorillas, including Patrick, 18, and two new females, Tufani, 18, and Makena, 9, that arrived earlier this year.

At 213 pounds, Jenny had been in relatively good health for her impressive age. In recent years, she had contributed to a national study on female menopause in gorillas. She loved to forage for food items such as seeds and cereal hidden beneath pine shavings and wood wool and could often be seen napping below a fig tree in her habitat. Ironically, she did not like to eat bananas but loved to eat the peels, something she did since her infant years.

Gorillas are the largest primates in the world and considered critically endangered due to loss of habitat and poaching. The Dallas Zoo participates in a Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) to help manage captive gorilla populations, educate the public, and further the understanding of these magnificent creatures.

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