Zoo Atlanta salutes its treasured seniors
Friday, December 27, 2013
Updated: Gorilla pioneer Shamba’s condition is improving after a recent illness
ATLANTA – December 27, 2013 – They are parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great grandparents. The newsmakers of Zoo Atlanta’s Ford African Rain Forest have recently been the newborn gorillas Andi and Anaka, both born in 2013, but the Zoo’s great ape habitats are also home to five very special senior residents.
The Zoo’s eldest gorilla, female Shamba, was in guarded condition during the week of December 16 as staff monitored her closely for symptoms resulting from age-related complications. Her condition has since improved and her appetite has returned, but the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams continue to observe her carefully; even an illness such as the common cold can be potentially dangerous for geriatric apes. Estimated to be around 54 years old, Shamba is the mother of Taz, the silverback of the Zoo’s largest gorilla group, which includes Andi and Anaka.
Male Ozzie, 52, is the oldest known living male gorilla in the world. Female Choomba, also 52, is best known as the mother of Kudzoo, first offspring of the legendary late Willie B., as well as the mother of his third daughter, Sukari. All born in the wild in Africa, Shamba, Ozzie, Choomba and Willie B. became the anchors of the Zoo’s gorilla collection, which over the years has included 21 infants born at Zoo Atlanta.
“Shamba, Ozzie and Choomba are treasured members of the Zoo Atlanta family. All three were pioneers in The Ford African Rain Forest, and as parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, they’re direct contributors to what is now North America’s largest collection of gorillas,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “Their many long and active years are a testament to the excellent care and enrichment they receive here at the Zoo, and we’re honored and proud to have them with us.”
Western lowland gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of about 35. Ozzie and Choomba are still active and healthy, and animal care professionals have retrofitted their living areas for the needs of gorilla seniors, who encounter many of the same challenges elderly humans do, including arthritis.
Zoo Atlanta is home to the nation’s largest collection of western lowland gorillas, which are now classified as critically endangered. Habitat loss and poaching have decimated wild populations by as much as 95 percent over the past two decades. Zoo Atlanta is a national center of excellence for the care and study of gorillas, with more than 120 published research papers authored or co-authored by Zoo Atlanta staff. In 2011, Zoo Atlanta received the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Edward H. Bean Award for Scientific Achievement in recognition of its long-term commitment to the species.
The Zoo is also home to the nation’s largest zoological collection of orangutans, two of whom are over the age of 40. At 42, Alan is the oldest male Sumatran orangutan in North America and the second-oldest male orangutan in North America. At 43, female Biji is the 10th oldest female Sumatran orangutan in the U.S. Biji is in excellent health, but Alan suffers from complications associated with cardiac failure; he has been under treatment by the Veterinary Team and has been monitored by the Great Ape Heart Project, which is headquartered at Zoo Atlanta.
Stay tuned for updates on the members of the Zoo’s gorilla and orangutan collections.