OKC Zoo loses longtime gorilla matriarch

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"Kathy" Courtesy: The OKC Zoo

OKLAHOMA CITY – The OKC Zoo has lost a longtime primate friend.

Zoo officials said 50-year-old “Kathy,” considered the matriarch of her Western lowland gorilla troop died peacefully Tuesday morning.

The cause of her death is unknown until officials finish the autopsy.

 Zoo deputy director Alan Varsik said, “She had a gentle and caring nature and we will greatly miss her presence at the Zoo.”

While at the Oklahoma City Zoo, Kathy gave had eight children, including George, son of Zoo favorite, Bom Bom, who died of a heart attack last July.

Before his death, Bom Bom sired the Zoo’s newest Western lowland gorilla recently born on Valentine’s Day.

Kathy enjoyed the company of other troop members Emily, Mikella, Gracie, Ndjole and the newest adult member, Togo.

She came to the Zoo from the Philadelphia Zoo in December of 1971; she was just 9 years old.

Zoo officials said she was one of a few remaining Western lowland gorillas born in Africa before living in an accredited-zoo environment.

According to the zoo, gorillas have a median life expectancy of about 35 years.

Native to the lowland forests of central and western Africa, Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered.

If you would like to share your memories or thoughts about Kathy, please go to the Zoo’s Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/okczoobg.