Philly's Beloved Gorilla Died of Throat Infection

Zoo keepers now know what led to the death of one of the Philadelphia Zoo's beloved gorillas.

Jabari, a 28-year-old male western lowland gorilla, died last month while under anesthesia.

A necropsy showed that a throat infection is what killed Jabari. The report concluded that a bacterial infection under the back of the gorilla's tongue caused major swelling around his windpipe.

Although Jabari appeared to be breathing fine before anesthesia, once he was under, the swelling blocked his airway and also thwarted attempts to insert a breathing tube.

Jabara was put under anesthesia because the Zoo’s veterinary team wanted to conduct a full examination after he exhibited appetite loss and signs of mouth or throat discomfort.

At the time of his death, Dr. Andy Baker, Chief Operating Officer at the zoo, said the staff was shocked and "deeply saddened by this tremendous loss. Jabari was an iconic favorite with our staff and visitors, and we expected him to be with us for many years.”

Jabari was born at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago in February 1985, and arrived in Philadelphia from the St. Louis Zoo in July 2004. Jabari lived with Honi, an 18-year-old female, and Kira, a 14-year-old female.

During his nine years in Philadelphia, Jabari was one of the zoo’s most popular animals and the largest animal in PECO Primate Reserve. Most recently, he garnered attention for his potential to breed with Kira, and father the first gorilla born at the Zoo in many years.

The Philadelphia Zoo is home to four other western lowland gorillas. Females Kira and Honi were part of Jabari’s group. A second “bachelor group”, includes 14-year-old male, Louis, who is Jabari’s son, and 11-year-old male Kuchimba, who is Honi’s son. 

Gorillas may live as long as 50 years in zoos, with a more typical lifespan in the mid-30’s, according to officials.

The Philadelphia Zoo's Massa held the longevity record of 54 years at the time of his death in 1984. 

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