ATLANTA -- Zoo Atlanta mourned the loss of its oldest gorilla on Friday - also one of the oldest in the world.
Officials confirmed that 58-year-old Shamba, a female western lowland gorilla was found unresponsive by her care team and euthanized after a preliminary examination revealed age-related complications.
A statement from the zoo said that animal care and veterinary teams made the decision to euthanize the elder gorilla rather than jeopardize her quality of life.
“Shamba was an extraordinary individual, beloved by her care team and the Zoo Atlanta family, and her passing is very difficult, especially for those who knew her best and interacted with her daily,” said Vice President of Animal Divisions Hayley Murphy. “She leaves an incredible legacy behind, not just as a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother, but as an original member of what is today an award-winning gorilla program because of individuals like her.”
In her nearly three decades at Zoo Atlanta, Shamba was a founding member of its gorilla program and also served as an ambassador for her now critically endangered species.
Officials pointed out that western lowland gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of 35. Shamba was one of a very special and rare group of senior gorillas - and one of three at Zoo Atlanta.
To those who knew her, Shamba and her female counterpart, 54-year-old Choomba, were fondly referred to as the "Golden Girls."
At 58, she lived to be older than their male counterpart Ozzie who is also the oldest living male gorilla in the world. Both Choomba and Ozzie appear to be behaving normally after the loss, zoo officials said.
Shamba is survived by three children including Taz, the silverback of the Zoo’s large family group. She has more than 30 descendants, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren living at Zoo Atlanta and at accredited zoos around the U.S.
A necropsy will be performed through the Zoo's partnership with the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service with results available in several weeks.