21-year-old gorilla at NC Zoo euthanized

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21-year-old male gorilla "Nkosi" died Tuesday (NC Zoo photo)

ASHEBORO, N.C. — Veterinarians at the North Carolina Zoo were forced to euthanize 21-year-old male gorilla “Nkosi” Tuesday following more than a week of treatments and testing for an unidentified illness.

Nkosi, called “Nik” by zoo staff, was best known as the father of two male youngsters, “Bomassa” and “Apollo,” who were born in August 2012. They were the first successful gorilla births at the N.C. Zoo in more than 23 years.

Nik had been transferred to Asheboro from the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo in March 2008 as part of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

According to the Zoo’s Curator of Mammals Adrian Fowler, Nik became ill more than a week ago with symptoms that included headaches and loss of appetite. His condition had “waxed and waned” over the ensuing week until early Sunday morning when he “finally collapsed,” Fowler said.

“Despite the best efforts of the zoo’s veterinary and keeper staffs working round-the-clock, by Sunday morning Nik was unable to move, eat or drink,” Fowler explained. “Experts from other zoos as well as the human medical field were consulted on the case. But based on a variety of clinical signs and laboratory tests, in the end we had no other choice but to euthanize on humane grounds. His situation had become terminal.”

A necropsy, or animal autopsy, was being conducted Tuesday afternoon at the zoo’s Hanes Veterinary Medical Center.

“This is an extremely sad day for the entire zoo,” said N.C. Zoo Director Dr. David Jones. “Our gorilla family has been one of our great successes over the last few years. Nkosi was a terrific father to Bomassa and Apollo and will be very difficult to replace.”

Meanwhile, the other gorillas in the N.C. Zoo’s collection, including Bomassa and Apollo, their mothers “Jamani” and “Olympia,” and a third adult female, “Acacia,” remain on exhibit and in good health.

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