Shamba (Courtesy Zoo Atlanta)

Zoo Atlanta announced today that its oldest gorilla, Shamba, has died. The 58-year-old female western lowland gorilla, who was also one of the oldest gorillas in the world, was found unresponsive by her care team on Friday. Following a preliminary examination that revealed advanced age-related complications, the animal care and veterinary teams made the decision to euthanize her rather than jeopardize her quality of life.

“Shamba was an extraordinary individual, beloved by her care team and the Zoo Atlanta family, and her passing is very difficult, especially for those who knew her best and interacted with her daily,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “She leaves an incredible legacy behind, not just as a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother, but as an original member of what is today an award-winning gorilla program because of individuals like her.”

Western lowland gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of about 35, and Shamba was one of a group of three very special senior gorillas at Zoo Atlanta. Shamba and her female counterpart, 54-year-old Choomba, were fondly referred to as the “Golden Girls” by their Zoo family. Their male companion, 56-year-old Ozzie, is the oldest living male gorilla in the world. Choomba and Ozzie are both behaving normally following the loss of their group member.

Along with Choomba, Ozzie and the late Willie B., Shamba was one of the founding members of what is today one of the largest zoological populations of western lowland gorillas in North America. Shamba, Choomba and Ozzie arrived at the Zoo in the 1980s at the time of the opening of the landmark Ford African Rain Forest. Shamba’s three surviving children include Taz, the silverback of the Zoo’s large family group. She has more than 30 descendants, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, living at Zoo Atlanta and at accredited zoos around the U.S.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.