Zoo mourns the loss of Western Lowland Gorilla

Special to the PRESS

Gladys Porter Zoo staff are shocked and devastated to relay the news that Martha, a beloved member of the Zoo’s Western lowland gorilla troop, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday night. She was 32 years old.

“Martha loved to interact with the public. I remember she’d put her ear to the glass, tap and wait for guests to tap back. She was also a proud mom who loved to show off her and her sisters’ babies to visitors,” said Walter DuPree, Curator of Mammals.

A press release issued by the zoo noted that Martha was the last gorilla baby born to the Zoo’s matriarch and patriarch, Katunga and Lamydoc. While Lamydoc and Katunga produced 11 offspring, Katunga was never very interested in raising any of them.

Accordingly, Martha was raised by staff and then successfully integrated back into the troop. Despite being hand-raised, she was an excellent mother to her six offspring, including Asha and Megan (now on loan to the Dallas Zoo) and Tracy James (now on loan to the Houston Zoo).

Another one of her offspring, Margaret, still resides at Gladys Porter Zoo and is now rearing a baby of her own. Martha’s last baby, Kruger, is nearly three years old.

He is currently being cared for by the troop, under the protective eye of his father, Mbundi.

On the day of her passing, Martha was slow to respond to her keepers in the morning. She was already being treated for a urinary tract infection but showed no symptoms of something more serious. Keepers were shocked and heartbroken to find she had passed away during the night.

“Upon necropsy, we found that she had multiple organ abnormalities, which, in turn, created a life-ending cascade,” said Dr. Tom deMaar, the Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian. “The cascade began with fibrosing heart disease, which led to renal failure.”

The Zoo’s gorillas are closely monitored on a daily basis for any sign of illness, which includes changes in behavior, reluctance to eat or drink and altered interactions with their keepers and with each other.

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