Al Ain Zoo’s lowland gorilla Lady dies aged 41

The much-loved widow, who liked nothing more than watching Barney the purple dinosaur on television, died peacefully in her sleep.
Lady sips an orange juice on her 40th birthday at Al Ain Zoo in March last year. Pawan Singh / The National
Lady sips an orange juice on her 40th birthday at Al Ain Zoo in March last year. Pawan Singh / The National

AL AIN // Lady, the lowland gorilla, who has died at the age of 41, had plenty of friends at Al Ain Zoo to keep her company after the death of her longtime partner 18 years ago.

After Maxi passed away from natural causes, Lady found comfort in watching her favourite TV show — Barney and Friends — and by mixing with other animals at the zoo.

She adopted a tan, long-eared rabbit who helped to keep her company in her enclosure. The pair would hang out together until late evening, and zookeepers are sure the friendship helped Lady deal with the loss of Maxi.

Her advancing years made it unlikely she would accept another gorilla, so she settled for the rabbit’s company instead.

She was the zoo’s oldest inhabitant, having arrived in the country at the age of 4 from Cameroon, and quickly became a firm favourite with keepers and visitors.

Lady moved to a new enclosure in 2002 where she had companions that included other rabbits and a wallaby.

One keeper had been caring for Lady since 2011 and considered her a friend.

“Whether she was with the staff or visitors, she was always part of the family here,” he said. “She recognised us as individuals.

“The primates are very intelligent and social animals, so they would interact with us. They need to be in a social group and Lady saw everyone working with her as part of her group.

“Lady would behave in a certain way with some of us, and would take a glass of water with some but not others.

“We never had any problems with her and the communication was done through body language and eye contact. She knew how we were feeling, and vice versa.”

One of Lady’s regular keepers believes she saw the other animals as her babies.

“She would groom the rabbit’s face and push it to go outside if she wanted to go out,” he said. “Everyone here will miss her greatly.”

A zoo spokesman said: “It is with sadness that Al Ain Zoo announces the passing away of perhaps its most loved animal, the lowland gorilla Lady.

“As a young infant, she was hand-reared by keepers. She was always well looked after and enjoyed being the centre of attention.”

Lowland gorillas, which are found across central Africa, can live to 30 or 40 in the wild and up to the age of 60 in captivity, although this is rare.

Lady was a popular attraction at the zoo and a stone memorial is now being planned for her.

A stone memorial is now being planned for Lady and zoologists are carrying out a post-mortem examination to find out how she died.

Al Ain Zoo is also home to Zulu and Himba, two African male leopards, and hosts workshops on its conservation programmes for rare species.

Officials at the zoo are now searching the globe for replacements so they can continue to use the gorilla enclosure, and hope to have at least two new animals in there by next year.

nwebster@thenational.ae

Published: August 1, 2016 04:00 AM

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