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Posted by Tara Henson on 02/19/2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                         February 19, 2013


CONTACTS:  Tara Henson:  (405) 425-0219 / O, (405) 919-9038 / C or [email protected]

 Candice Rennels:  (405) 425-0298 / O, (405) 412-6172 / C or [email protected]



Kathy - GorillaOklahoma City Zoo officials are sad to announce the death of a treasured Western lowland gorilla. Kathy, 50, died peacefully early Tuesday morning, February 19, 2013. A necropsy, animal autopsy, is being performed and results are pending.

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

Kathy came to the Zoo from the Philadelphia Zoo in December of 1971 at the age of nine. She became part of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding recommendation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). She was one of a few remaining Western lowland gorillas born in Africa before living in an accredited-zoo environment.

Kathy was one of several geriatric animals living at the Zoo. The median life expectancy for gorillas is approximately 35 years. Advances in veterinary medicine, nutrition, husbandry techniques and habitation have enabled animals to live longer in zoos and aquariums around the nation. As a result, managers and care givers are developing new ways to address the unique needs of geriatric animals.

While at the Oklahoma City Zoo, Kathy gave birth to eight offspring, including George, son of Zoo favorite, Bom Bom, who died of cardiac arrest in July 2012. 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. 

Native to the lowland forests of central and western Africa, Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered. Commercial hunting for meat, habitat loss and poaching are contributing factors to their status in the wild. One of the SSP's most important roles is to manage gorillas as a population, ensuring that the population remains healthy, genetically-diverse and self-sustaining.

Kathy was a beloved member of the Zoo family and an ambassador for her species in the wild. She contributed to the preservation of her species and connected countless numbers of people to the need for change in wild environments. She was also symbolic to the advancement of providing naturalistic, socially appropriate habitats for animals in accredited zoos.

If you would like to share your memories or thoughts about Kathy, please go to the Zoo’s Facebook fan page at A page remembering Kathy can be found by clicking here.



EDITOR’S NOTE:  Interviews will be available February 19 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. with Deputy Director Alan Varsik and Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino. Please contact Zoo Public Relations to arrange interviews.  Photos of Kathy are available upon request.

Photo: Kathy, Western lowland gorilla by Lena Koefed.

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