Cincinnati Zoo mourns the loss of silverback gorilla Kwashi - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Cincinnati Zoo mourns the loss of gorilla

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

The Cincinnati Zoo announced with a heavy heart that its 30-year-old silverback gorilla, Kwashi, had died.

Primate keepers saw a change in Kwashi's eating habits and noticed he was drinking less on Sunday. On Monday, the vet staff and a team of experts were called in after Kwashi was lethargic and dehydrated.

Cincinnati Zoo Veterinarian, two staff vet technicians, a team of local human physicians made of an area anesthesiologist, as well as surgeons and a cardiac ultrasound technician from Christ Hospital made the emergency house call to the Zoo. Kwashi's temperature was low and his heart rate was nearly undetectable during the evaluation.

Attempts were made to get fluid in Kwashi, but unfortunately, he died shortly after the procedure began. 

Primate team leader Ron Evans says gorillas are built much like people. "They actually share 98-percent of DNA as humans so their physiology is basically the same as ours.  So we regularly, not just for animals that are closely related to humans, but for other species to, we'll bring in human doctors to consult on all sorts of aspects."

"Kwashi, like all gorillas, was a unique individual with a quiet and timid personality," said Thane Maynard, Executive Director at the Cincinnati Zoo. "He will be sorely missed not only by all of us that worked with him and loved him, but also by our passionate community of Zoo lovers and his gorilla family."

Evans says Kwashi had a charismatic personality. "We had a great relationship with him. His personality was so easy to like.  Everybody, I mean you didn't even have to work with him to like Kwashi," said Evans.

Silverback gorillas are endangered in their natural environment and Maynard says when one dies in captivity the loss is keenly felt. "It's particularly a loss to the keepers who lived with him everyday. Just like anybody who has an animal knows they're close be it a horse or a dog. People care deeply about animals and keepers really care deeply about their animals."

After performing a necropsy on Tuesday, it was discovered that Kwashi died from a serious abdominal infection. Tissue samples were collected and sent to a pathologist to allow zoos to continue to learn about the species.

The 320-pound gorilla was born at the Memphis Zoo in 1982 and came to Cincinnati in May 2010 from the Knoxville Zoo.

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