Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Bronx Zoo's Celebrity Gorilla, Dies at 40

A western lowland gorilla, a critically endangered species that will be protected in a new national park in the Republic of Congo. One of the Bronx's Zoo's most-loved animals, a female gorilla named Pattycake, has passed away at the age of 40.

Born in captivity in 1972, Pattycake had suffered from cardiac problems in recent years. Most gorillas live about 37 years in captivity. Pattycake, the first gorilla born in captivity in the city and more than 33,000 people responded to a request for name suggestions. "Millions of children in New York City grew up with Pattycake at the Bronx Zoo," Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo, said. "Pattycake was a very special animal and her presence will be deeply missed."

Gorillas are the largest primates and are endangered throughout much of their African habitat. The Cross River gorilla is the world's rarest, with fewer than 300 individuals surviving in the wild. Gorillas are threatened by hunting for bushmeat, loss of habitat and the spread of the Ebola virus, which is deadly to gorillas as well as to humans, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Conservationists are cautiously optimistic that a new national park in the Republic of Congo, the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park, will help conserve Pattycake's critically endangered species, the western lowland gorilla. Recent analysis has revealed that humans are more closely related to gorillas than was previously thought. On a genetic level, humans and gorillas are about 98 percent identical.

Pattycake gave birth to 10 offspring while living at the Bronx zoo, including twins born in 1995. She also inspired two books about her life, "Gorilla Baby: The Story of Pattycake" and "Gentle Gorilla: The Story of Pattycake".


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