Sept. 2, 2015

Saint Louis Zoo 314/781-0900
Susan Gallagher, 314/646-4633;
Christy Childs, 314/646-4639;
Joanna Hoeltge, 314/646-4703;

Saint Louis Zoo Saddened by Death of Gorilla "Juma"

The Saint Louis Zoo is saddened to announce that Juma, a 27-year-old male western lowland gorilla, died unexpectedly on Monday afternoon, Aug. 31, in his outdoor habitat at Fragile Forest.

Around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Juma suddenly collapsed. Despite a quick emergency response from his primary caretakers and the Zoo's veterinarians, Juma passed away. A necropsy performed by the Zoo's pathologist on Monday night suggested his heart condition as the likely cause of death. The final cause of death will not be confirmed until histopathology and other studies are completed, a process that is likely to take several weeks. Median life expectancy for male western lowland gorillas is 31 years.

Many aging gorillas are affected by heart conditions. Juma was originally diagnosed in November 2011 with some permanent, irreversible changes in his heart muscle. He had responded well to treatments administered over the last four years, and an exam done in June of this year had shown some stabilization of his heart function. "Juma had some irreversible changes in his heart, but the medical management that he received over the last four years had a positive effect on his overall function and quality of life," said Dr. Luis Padilla, Director of Animal Health at the Zoo. The Saint Louis Zoo has been a participant in the Great Ape Heart Project, a consortium established to better understand heart disease in apes and develop ways to improve treatment modalities.

Juma Adika, his full name, was born at the Saint Louis Zoo in 1988 to mother Kivu and father Fred. Nicknamed "The Boss," Juma was one of five male gorillas in a bachelor group with Little Joe, Jontu, Bakari and Nadaya. Wild gorilla males may choose to live in an all-male group if too young or unable to assume leadership of a family group. In 1998 the Association of Zoos and Aquariums gave the Saint Louis Zoo a Significant Achievement Award for its long-term success in forming an all-male group of gorillas. Juma was a silverback and the "anchor" of this bachelor group. Many younger gorillas learned to grow up under him and his pleasant, calm demeanor, according to zookeepers.

"The Saint Louis Zoo staff is saddened by his death," said Jack Grisham, vice president of animal collections at the Zoo. "He will be very much missed by our staff, our volunteers and visitors."