Zoo Keepers Heartbroken After Sudden Death Of Kibabu

Zoo keepers have struggled to cope, as Kibabu the silverback gorilla dies aged 41.

What you need to know
  • Kibabu was was 41-years-old when he died
  • He was an integral part of global breeding programs, fathering 12 offspring
  • Kibabu's family are grieving the loss of their leader, just as humans would

One of Australia's most magnificent zoo residents has died and keepers are devastated.

Kibabu the silverback gorilla arrived at Taronga Zoo in the 1990's after a long journey from his home in England and enjoyed his final years at the peaceful Mogo Zoo on the NSW South Coast.

The 200kg male enamoured visitors and his mighty presence gained the respect of keepers who saw him as an example of the work zoos around the world could do to participate in breeding and caring for the world's most endangered species.

With an estimated 1,000 Gorillas left in the wild, the magnificent apes are slowly breeding their way out of endangerment and Kibabu, which translates to 'grandfather' in Swahili,  fathered at least 12 children.

Mogo Zoo's owner Sally Padey shared the heartbreaking message on social media on Sunday that Kibabu had passed away. She told ten daily the message took her "almost an hour to write because I kept crying," and that Kibabu was "the soul of his family".

Born in London in 1977, Kibabu quickly became a main attraction when he arrived at Sydney's Taronga Zoo, drawing in admirers. Thanks to a successful global breeding program, his offspring continue breeding programs in zoos around the world, from Japan to Prague.

In 2013 Kibabu and his family -- girlfriends Mouila and Kriba, and their children Mahali and Kipenzi moved to the smaller and privately owned Mogo Zoo for a quieter life.

The group settled in quickly with keepers giving credit to Kababu's integrity as a leader and father as part of the reason his group was so comfortable and content in their new home.

Sally said that Kibabu's family had been taken off display to give them time to grieve and just as they would have in the wild, spend time saying farewell to their beloved leader.

"This morning they are doing a lot better," Sally told ten daily "we are going to give them as much time as they need,"

"It was so quick, I do thank him for that," she said still shaken from the considerable loss and has been left questioning his sudden death as most gorillas live around 50 years in captivity, a decade longer than expected in the wild.

"We aren't sure what happened and are expecting to do an autopsy," she said, adding that they suspect heart failure.

One of zoo owners favourite photos of Kibabu, she told ten daily it shows his playful side. Image: Mogo Zoo Facebook

Sally speaks proudly when she shares that Kibabu fathered so many gorillas around the world and her passion for the great apes is one she takes to heart.

"He will live on." she said.

READ MORE: Koko, The Gorillla Who Mastered Sign Language, Dies

Contact the author: ncarroll@networkten.com.au