Friday, September 5, 2008

Oldest captive gorilla, Jenny, dies at Dallas Zoo

10:14 PM CDT on Friday, September 5, 2008
By ERIC AASEN / The Dallas Morning News
Jenny liked to do things her way at the Dallas Zoo. The oldest gorilla in captivity had earned the right. She didn't care for bananas, but she loved to devour the peels. She wouldn't let anyone boss her around. And she didn't always show off for zoo visitors, instead lounging under a fig tree.

Photo of Jenny the gorilla at the Dallas Zoo. Jenny, the oldest gorilla in captivity in the world, has passed away at 55 years of age. Jenny, a Western lowland gorilla, passed away September 4th as a result of an inoperable tumor. The tumor, which was located in her stomach, had begun to interfere with her eating and drinking. Jenny had not been eating normally and had recently been showing signs of dehydration, despite zookeeper, veterinary, and nutritionist attempts to provide her with food and liquids. The Dallas Zoo's veterinary team, in conjunction with local gastroenterology experts, made the diagnosis following an endoscopy exam. Necropsy and histopathology findings will provide more specific results.

Jenny, the grande dame of gorillas, died Thursday from an inoperable stomach tumor that made it difficult for her to eat and drink.
At age 55, she was one of only four gorillas over 50 in North American zoos, zoo officials said.
Jenny hadn't been eating normally for several days, said Chuck Siegel, the zoo's deputy director for animal management. The tumor was identified when an endoscopy was performed Thursday, he said.
Zoo officials decided to euthanize Jenny after determining her quality of life wouldn't rebound.
"We have heavy hearts," Mr. Siegel said. "At the same time, we also have this sense of celebrating the excellent care she has received over the past half-century."
Her death comes just a month after Hercules, the zoo's 43-year-old male silverback gorilla, died of cardiac arrest.

Jenny, a western lowland gorilla, arrived at the Dallas Zoo in 1957 at age 4. The zoo celebrated her 55th birthday in May with a frozen fruit cake, while zoo visitors signed a large birthday card.
Getting to a ripe old age meant that Jenny helped educate researchers: She was part of a national study about menopause in gorillas. She loved to forage for seeds and cereal hidden under pine shavings and wood wool, a strawlike material.

Up until recently, Jenny was in good health for her advanced age, taking only multivitamins and a joint supplement – a powder that's mixed with applesauce. But age was taking its toll on the 213-pound gorilla. She was showing early signs of cataracts, and she ate Activia yogurt to calm her irritable stomach.

Over the past several days, she showed signs of dehydration, despite attempts to give her food and liquid, zoo officials said. They noticed blood in her stool and consulted gastroenterology experts.

A necropsy was performed Friday and tissue samples will be sent away for testing, Mr. Siegel said. In addition to the tumor in her stomach, tumors were found in Jenny's liver and near her diaphragm. There were also signs of hardening arteries.

The zoo houses many aging animals, including Kamili, the oldest okapi in captivity. Hildy, the nation's oldest giraffe, was euthanized last year. The zoo is home to four gorillas, including Timbo, the oldest at 46.
The others are Patrick and Tufani, both 18, and Makena, 9. Tufani and Makena arrived this year. Zoo officials plan to request that additional gorillas be transferred to Dallas.
The zoo has been paying attention to the gorillas to make sure they don't get depressed, Mr. Siegel said. Timbo, who lost Hercules , and now Jenny, was acting normal on Friday, he said.

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