Ozzie, the world’s oldest male gorilla and the third oldest gorilla, died Tuesday at the Atlanta Zoo, the facility announced. He is 61 years old.
The cause of death of the 350-pound western lowland gorilla is still unknown.
Ozzie is considered a true legend at the zoo and is the sole surviving member of the original generation of gorillas that arrived when the Ford African Rainforest opened in 1988, according to the release.
Last week, staff noticed Ozzie’s appetite waning and encouraged her to eat, according to the zoo.
“Over the past 24 hours, teams treated him as he developed symptoms including facial swelling, weakness and inability to eat or drink,” the statement said. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
Ozzie’s death comes just days after his partner, Choomba, died due to her declining health. She is 59 years old. The two live together in the same neighborhood at the Atlanta Zoo and have been together for over 15 years.
Frequent visitors catch Ozzie napping in his favorite space – his wood wool pile. His favorite foods include oranges and cabbage. And he communicates with staff using his “answer” voice and a series of raps featured on doors or windows, according to his bio on the zoo’s website.
“This is a grave loss for Zoo Atlanta. The news release,” said Raymond B. King, president and chief executive officer of Zoo Atlanta.
“Ozzie’s life contributions are indelible, in the individual generations he left behind in the gorilla population and in the world’s knowledge base in the care of his species. Our thoughts are with his care team, who have lost part of their life and part of their heart.”
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the western lowland gorillas are listed as critically endangered. According to WWF, due to poaching and disease, species populations have decreased by more than 60% over the past 20-25 years.
Ozzie has more than 20 descendants, according to the zoo. He is survived by his daughter Kuchi; sons Kekla, Stadi and Charlie; niece Lulu; Floyd’s niece and great-grandson, all of whom live at the Atlanta Zoo, according to the statement. The rest of him live at other recognized zoos in the US and Canada.