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Zoo Atlanta mourns loss of its 2nd oldest gorilla

Choomba was the fourth-oldest gorilla in the world and one of the founding members of Zoo Atlanta's gorilla population.

ATLANTA — Editor's Note: The video above is of Zoo Atlanta's rhino.

Zoo Atlanta is mourning the loss of Choomba, its second-oldest western lowland gorilla

Choomba, 59, passed away Thursday due to age-related health complications including advanced arthritis. Zoo Atlanta said zookeepers and its veterinary teams have been following her health closely these past few days. 

"Given her poor prognosis and with concern for her comfort and quality of life, the teams made the extremely difficult decision to euthanize her on January 13," Zoo Atlanta said in a release. 

Choomba was the fourth-oldest gorilla in the world and one of the founding members of Zoo Atlanta's gorilla population. She arrived at the zoo in the '80s when the Ford African Rain Forest opened. 

She is also the matriarch of four generations of gorillas. She is the mother of Kudzoo, whom she had with the legendary late Willie B., Machi and Sukari, as well as the grandmother of Willie B. Jr., Merry Leigh, Anaka and Mijadala, all of whom live at Zoo Atlanta. 

She has additional grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren living at accredited zoos across the U.S. 

“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. We commend the truly valiant efforts of our Gorilla and Veterinary Teams to help Choomba, from supportive care and laser therapy for her arthritis to forward-thinking updates to the spaces used by our geriatric gorillas,” Vice President of Collections and Conservation Jennifer Mickelberg said. “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.”

According to Zoo Atlanta, gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of 40. In recent years, Choomba had been living in a senior social group with Ozzie, 61, who is the zoo's oldest living male gorilla. 

Choomba was also a beloved ambassador of the zoo. She helped educate the public about her species, which became endangered during her lifetime. 

Zoo Atlanta said 24 gorillas have been born at the zoo. Its staff is dedicated to researching and improving the care of gorillas in zoos, as well as understanding more about gorilla biology. 

For more information about Zoo Atlanta's gorillas, click here.

Credit: Zoo Atlanta