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Brookfield Zoo’s oldest animal, 50-year-old gorilla Ramar, euthanized

Ramar and his son Nadaya, pictured in 2005. | Chicago Zoological Society

Ramar, a western lowland gorilla, was euthanized Thursday at Brookfield Zoo.

At 50, he was the oldest animal at the west suburban zoo, and the sixth-oldest western lowland gorilla in an accredited North American zoo, according to the statement from Brookfield Zoo announcing his death.

A few weeks ago, animal care staff reported that Ramar was not eating. It was discovered during an exam that he had a partial blockage of his bowel and stomach with plant material from his normal diet.

Zoo staff were able to help manage Ramar through the issue, but during his recovery, Ramar’s overall comfort became a major consideration.

Ramar, a western lowlife gorilla and Brookfield Zoo's oldest animal at 50 years old, was euthanized Thursday.

Ramar, a western lowlife gorilla and Brookfield Zoo’s oldest animal at 50 years old, was euthanized Thursday. | Chicago Zoological Society

“Based on his quality of life, staff made the very difficult conclusion that euthanasia was the most humane decision for Ramar,” the zoo said.

“For several years now, we have been able to intervene and manage Ramar’s chronic conditions that have allowed him to live comfortably with little to no pain,” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal care for the Chicago Zoological Society.

“Even though the advancement of veterinary medicine in professional care has allowed animals in zoos to live longer than their wild counterparts, there comes a time, like in Ramar’s case, that we aren’t able to stop the progression of age-related ailments.”

The median life expectancy for male gorillas in North American zoos is 32 years.

Ramar was orphaned in the wild in 1969 and brought to the United States, where he was raised by a human family until he was about 6 years old. He was then acquired by North Carolina Zoo in 1974, and spent some time at Philadelphia Zoo and Zoo Miami before arriving at Brookfield Zoo in October 1998 on a breeding loan.

For 13 years, Ramar was the zoo’s dominant male gorilla, or silverback. He sired his only three offspring at Brookfield: a son, Nadaya, with Baraka in 2001; a daughter, Kamba, with Koola in 2004; and another son, Bakari, with Binti Jua in 2005.

In 2012, Ramar entered “semiretirement” after he was challenged by then 10-year-old son Nadaya. This scenario would also occur in their natural habitat, where an older silverback would eventually be pushed out of a group and a younger more assertive male gorilla would take over the leadership role, the zoo said.