LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Louisville Zoo announced that Helen, believed to be the world’s second oldest gorilla, died Friday at the age of 64.
Zookeepers said Helen’s quality of life declined with natural age over the last several months, leading keepers to make the difficult decision to euthanize her. She suffered from arthritis and some periodontal diseases, but recently she also developed instability and tremors, which put her at great risk of falling.
Helen was affectionately known as the “Great Lady” who impressed fans with her personality and longevity, according to the zoo.
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“Letting go of a special gorilla like Helen is very difficult, but it is often the last and best thing we can do for our animals,” Louisville Zoo Director Dan Maloney said in a news release. “Helen’s exceptional longevity is not only a testament to her personal makeup, but also to the excellent care provided by her team of caretakers and animal health care staff over the past 20 years.”
“Helen was one of our most beloved ambassadors,” Maloney continued. “Her fascination with human babies has delighted families for decades. I know our friends and members will share in her loss and will miss her dearly.”
Helen came to the Louisville Zoo in 2002 from the Lincoln Park Zoo. She was born in the wild in West Africa around 1958. Her birthday was recognized in January.
The zoo said the typical median lifespan for a female zoo gorilla is about 39 years. Fatou, a gorilla at the Berlin Zoo, is believed to be over 65 years old.
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Helen was a mother of three, a grandmother of 17, a great-grandmother of 21, a great-great-grandmother of eight, and finally a great-great-grandmother of one. Two of her progeny, Bengati (great-grandson) and Kindi (great-great-grandson) reside at the Louisville Zoo.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.