Columbus Zoo mourns death of gorilla, Anakka

(Graham S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium)
(Graham S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A 31-year-old western lowland gorilla died Thursday after failing to recover from anesthesia after a medical procedure.

According to the Columbus Zoo, Anakka had a history of heart disease that was being managed with medication and he had been anesthetized for reevaluation.  It is not uncommon for male gorillas to have heart disease and while the animal care team has developed specialized blood pressure cuffs to safely monitor their health, sedation is still necessary to perform most medical procedures on the great apes.

“The veterinary and animal care teams have been providing him with medical care around the clock since the procedure,” said Dr. Randy Junge, DVM and Vice President of Animal Health. “Unfortunately he was unresponsive with no sign of recovery and the very difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize him.”

The assessment by the Zoo’s Animal Health team was confirmed by a board-certified veterinary neurologist who issued a presumptive diagnosis of stroke with little chance of significant recovery. A full necropsy (animal autopsy) will be performed and pathology reports are not expected for several weeks. The necropsy will be conducted according to protocol developed to add to the zoo community’s knowledge of gorilla health, which will benefit gorillas in human care as well as those in their native range countries.

Anakka was born at the Philadelphia Zoo on June 1, 1985 and he has lived at the Columbus Zoo since 1993 where he sired four offspring. Median life expectancy for gorillas in North American zoos is 31.9 years of age.

“Anakka’s gorilla and human families were given time to mourn his passing.  He was very special to the Columbus Zoo. He was an excellent father, incredibly smart and charismatic” said Assistant Curator Audra Meinelt. “He was a fantastic troop leader who was loved by his females. He will be greatly missed.”

There are now 17 gorillas, including two other older silverback males, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and approximately 350 gorillas in North American zoos. There have been 32 gorillas born at the Columbus Zoo. The Columbus Zoo is also known worldwide for the success of its gorilla surrogacy program, in which infant gorillas that are unable to be cared for by their birth mother are matched with a surrogate gorilla family.

In addition to the world-class gorilla breeding and surrogacy program at the Zoo, the Columbus Zoo is proud to be a leader in several gorilla conservation projects in Central Africa. Grants from the Zoo’s conservation fund support research projects, protection efforts, and efforts to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned primates across Africa. The Columbus Zoo also founded Partners in Conservation, a grassroots effort to protect African wildlife through humanitarian projects.


Zoo staff members are requesting that memories of Anakka be posted on the Zoo’s Facebook page. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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