Blog: Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

Chicago Zoological Society Mourns Loss of Beloved Gorilla

Ramar Gorilla

The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) is sad to announce the loss of Ramar, a 50-year-old western lowland gorilla today, April 12. A few weeks ago animal care staff reported that he was not eating. Veterinary staff performed a complete evaluation on Ramar, including a CT scan, ultrasound, and endoscopy. During the exam, it was revealed that Ramar had a partial blockage of his bowel and stomach with plant material from his normal diet. He was experiencing diminished bowel function, which is a common challenge in geriatric patients. Veterinary and animal care staff were able to help manage Ramar through this concern. However, during his recovery, Ramar’s overall comfort became a major consideration. Based on his quality of life, staff made the very difficult conclusion that euthanasia was the most humane decision for Ramar.

Ramar outlived the median life expectancy for male gorillas in the accredited North American zoo population, which is 32 years. Though as he grew older, similar to humans that live to advanced ages, he was afflicted with a number of geriatric ailments, including degenerative heart disease and degenerative arthritis. The combination of these issues and recent struggles made it clear that Ramar’s comfort was declining.

“For several years now, we have been able to intervene and manage Ramar’s chronic conditions that have allowed him to live comfortably with little to no pain,”” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal care for CZS. “Even though the advancement of veterinary medicine in professional care has allowed animals in zoos to live longer than their wild counterparts, there comes a time, like in Ramar’s case, that we aren’t able to stop the progression of age-related ailments.

Ramar Gorilla with son Nadaya
Ramar Gorilla with son Nadaya (2005)

At age 50, Ramar was the oldest animal at Brookfield Zoo and the sixth oldest western lowland gorilla (he was the second oldest male) in the North American accredited zoo population. He had quite a unique background. In 1969, after being orphaned in the wild, he was brought to the United States and raised by a human family until he was about 6 years old. Ramar was then acquired by North Carolina Zoo in 1974, and spent some time at Philadelphia Zoo and Zoo Miami.

He arrived at Brookfield Zoo in October 1998 on a breeding loan and quickly became a favorite among guests and staff. For 13 years, he was the zoo’s dominant male gorilla (known as a silverback). While at Brookfield, he sired his only three offspring—a son (Nadaya) with Baraka in 2001, a daughter (Kamba) with Koola in 2004, and another son (Bakari) with Binti Jua in 2005.

Ramar’s longevity attests to the excellent professional care he received at Brookfield Zoo. He even participated in his own healthcare. Animal care staff had taught him a wide behavioral repertoire that included accepting hand injections and presenting various body parts (shoulder, arm, hand, foot, open mouth, etc.) for treatment that assisted zoo veterinary staff in providing the highest quality of care to him. Just last June, CZS’s veterinary team were joined by a board-certified veterinary dentist and orthopedic surgeon to assist with two procedures. One addressed Ramar’s receding gums. The other involved performing an arthroscopic examination of his knees that resulted in Ramar receiving injections of a synthetic joint lubricant and platelet rich plasma, both of which are shown to improve comfort in people with similar arthritis issues.

Ramar Gorilla with troop (2009)
Ramar Gorilla with troop at Brookfield Zoo (2009)

In 2012, Ramar entered a “semiretirement” situation soon after he was challenged by his then 10-year-old son Nadaya, resulting in the necessity for a new group leader. This scenario would also occur in their natural habitat, where an older silverback would eventually be pushed out of a group and a younger more assertive male gorilla would take over the leadership role. During his time as the silverback, Ramar was very protective of the family group and was also very playful with his offspring. Guests were still able to see Ramar at the zoo’s Tropic World: Africa, but he was in a separate habitat that was more suitable for him to maneuver around due to his geriatric issues. His animal care staff, who gave him lots of attention, described him as being very confident, majestic, inquisitive, and a great silverback.

Posted: 4/12/2018 1:23:49 PM by Steve Pine


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