Cleveland Metroparks Zoo saddened by loss of former gorilla resident, Timmy

One of the most well-known and fondly remembered residents of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo was euthanized Tuesday morning at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky.

Timmy, a western lowland gorilla, suffered from chronic medical problems in recent years including heart disease (cardiomyopathy), heart arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation) and osteoarthritis according to Louisville Zoo veterinarian Dr. Roy Burns. Timmy, 52, had been receiving treatment for these conditions for several months, and was responding well at first. His condition deteriorated over the last few weeks and the decision was made to euthanize him. He was the oldest male gorilla in North America.

Timmy became the subject of an intense controversy in 1991 when a court case was filed by an activist group who sought to block Timmy's impending transfer to the Bronx Zoo in New York City. The plaintiffs contended that taking Timmy away from his infertile female companion would be detrimental to his health. The Zoo's position was that Timmy's wild born status made his genes extremely valuable to the captive population. He had never produced offspring and the Zoo thought the move to a more natural social setting with several breeding-age female companions might improve his chances.

A federal court judge approved the transfer and Timmy left Cleveland for the Bronx on November 1, 1991. Any fears about Timmy's health were erased when he began to sire offspring in his new home. Timmy fathered 13 offspring - eight male and five female gorilla babies - at the Bronx Zoo between 1992 and 2004 when he was transferred to Louisville.

Timmy was born in Cameroon, in western Africa, in 1959. He was brought to the Memphis Zoo in 1960 where he lived until being transferred to Cleveland on December 14, 1966.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is currently home to two male western lowland gorillas – Bebac, age 26 and Mokolo, age 23.

Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) are critically endangered in the wild. Population estimates vary, but gorillas remain vulnerable to poaching, habitat loss through deforestation and outbreaks of diseases such as the Ebola virus.


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