Zoo Atlanta announces death of Choomba, world’s 4th oldest gorilla

Zoo Atlanta announces death of Choomba, world’s 4th oldest gorilla

By Nancy Clanton

Choomba, one of the founding members of Zoo Atlanta’s gorilla population, has died. She was 59.

The Western lowland gorilla was the second oldest at the zoo and the fourth oldest gorilla in the world.

The zoo said Thursday the animal care and veterinary teams had been monitoring Choomba this week after noticing a “marked decline in her physical condition due to advanced arthritis and other age-related complications,” the zoo announced.

“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,” it said.

Choomba arrived at Zoo Atlanta in the 1980s as one of the first gorillas to live in the Ford African Rain Forest.

Her legacy is extensive, with offspring — and their offspring — repopulating accredited zoos around the country.

Choomba was the mother of Kudzoo, the first offspring of the now-deceased Willie B. The matriarch of four generations of gorillas, Choomba was the mother of Machi, Kudzoo and Sukari, as well as the grandmother of Willie B. Jr., Merry Leigh, Anaka and Mijadala, all of whom live at Zoo Atlanta. Her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a great-great grandchild live at other U.S. zoos.

“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,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, vice president of Collections and Conservation. “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.”

Choomba had been living in a senior social group with Ozzie, who at age 61 is the world’s oldest living male gorilla, and two other females.


Gorillas are considered geriatric around age 40. A necropsy, which is an autopsy on nonhumans, will be performed by the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Preliminary results should be available in few weeks.

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