BROOKFIELD — Ramar, a 50-year-old western lowland gorilla who was the oldest animal at Brookfield Zoo, was euthanized Thursday.
The gorilla, who had lived at the west suburban zoo for nearly 20 years, had been suffering from several chronic health ailments from aging, zoo officials said. A few weeks ago, zoo staff noticed Ramar wasn't eating. After performing several tests, staff members discovered Ramar had a partial bowel blockage from his normal diet, a common occurrence in aging patients.
Though the staff helped Ramar manage these issues, he was afflicted with a number of geriatric ailments, including degenerative heart disease and degenerative arthritis. In the last year, Ramar also had procedures to treat his receding gums and aging joints.
The decision was made that euthanasia would be the "most humane" option, based on Ramar's declining comfort and quality of life, the zoo said in a statement.
Ramar outlived the median life expectancy of 32 years for male gorillas. He also was the sixth-oldest western lowland gorilla in the North American accredited zoo population, according to the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo.
"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."
Orphaned in the wild in West Africa, Ramar was brought to the United States in 1969 and raised by a human family until he was 6. Ramar spent time in zoos in North Carolina, Philadelphia and Miami before coming to Brookfield in October 1998. He quickly became a favorite among guests and staff. For more than a decade, Ramar was the zoo's dominant male gorilla, known as a silverback. In that time, he fathered two sons Nadaya and Bakari; and a daughter Kamba.
Ramar was forced into "semi-retirement" when Nadaya, 10, challenged his father to assume a role as the new group leader, a natural scenario that also occurs in the wild.
Ramar was a familiar face at the zoo's Tropic World: Africa exhibit, however he moved to a separate habitat more suitable for his growing needs later in life.
During his time as the silverback, Ramar was known to be protective of his family and playful with his offspring. According to the Chicago Zoological Society, the animal care staff remembered Ramar as a "very confident, majestic, inquisitive" silverback.