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Gladys Porter Zoo Mourns Sudden Death of Moja, Male Silverback Gorilla

Moja’s sudden death shocked zoo officials

The Gladys Porter Zoo family mourns the sudden death of Moja, the Zoo’s 29-year-old silverback male Western lowland gorilla.

A gorilla keeper was stunned after Moja’s sudden collapse in his behind-the-scenes quarters shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, April 15. Minutes before his death, Moja was seen playfully pounding his chest and hooting at Lamydoc, the Zoo’s gorilla family patriarch.

“Moja was a trim, fit animal – the perfect picture of a magnificent silverback male,” said Dr. Patrick Burchfield, the Zoo’s Executive Director. “He was both gentle and caring towards the members of his family.”

Concerns about his health were raised in September 2010 when he was diagnosed with heart disease, the most common cause of death in captive male gorillas in the United States. Upon diagnosis, he was placed on medication. His most recent cardiac exam was performed last year, and as no deteriorating progression of his heart condition was detected at the time, his medication regimen remained the same. Zoo veterinary staff are currently performing a necropsy exam to begin the process of determining the exact cause of his death. Initial indications implicate cardiac disease.

Moja was born on March 4, 1984 at Zoo Miami and was transferred to the Gladys Porter Zoo on breeding loan July 3, 1997. He sired 13 offspring during his 16 years at the Gladys Porter Zoo, and will always be remembered by Zoo staff and visitors for his grandiose stature and calm disposition.

Dr. Burchfield continued, “Despite the fact that Moja had already sired quite a few babies, the Association of Zoo’s and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan for Western lowland gorillas called for Moja to continue to produce offspring here. His most recent progeny resulted from a pairing with Kiazi, a young female that was placed at Gladys Porter Zoo on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo late in 2011. Kiazi’s first baby was born in January of 2013, and as part of the loan agreement, was recently returned to Cincinnati for foster rearing by adult female gorillas there. Moja may be gone, but his magnificence lives on.”

Native to the lowland forests of Africa, Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered due to habitation loss and trade in bush meat.

The Gladys Porter Zoo, one of the top Zoos in the country, features three generations of gorillas, tigers, macaws, kangaroos, Komodo dragons, 255 species of tropical plants and more. Most animals are displayed in settings that resemble their natural habitat. The Zoo also has a new enchanted South Texas themed playground, herpetarium, and giraffe feeding experience.

Gladys Porter Zoo is a visitor-oriented zoological and botanical park, dedicated to the preservation of nature through education, conservation, and research. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Zoo is open everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on the weekends. Regular admission for adults is $9.50 (ages 14 – 64), $6.50 for children (ages 2 to 13) and seniors 65 and over receive a discounted admission of $8.00. Children 1 and under are free. Group and school rates are available. For more information call (956) 546-7187 or visit gpz.org.

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