The world’s oldest male gorilla, aged 61, has been found dead in his habitat at Zoo Atlanta in the United States.
Named Ozzie, the gorilla was found lifeless on Tuesday by his care team.
The cause of death is, however, yet to be established.
It is understood that the zoo officials are still awaiting the results of a necropsy, although the western lowland gorilla, which was also the third-oldest of its kind in the world, was diagnosed with COVID-19 last September.
Veterinary staff had reported that Ozzie started experiencing a decrease in appetite last Thursday.
In a press release, Zoo Atlanta said it was difficult to get him to eat during the days leading up to his passing.
They said Ozzie exhibited symptoms like facial swelling, weakness, and inability to eat or drink 24 hours before death.
“This is a devastating loss for Zoo Atlanta. While we knew this time would come someday, that inevitability does nothing to stem the deep sadness we feel at losing a legend,” Raymond B. King, Zoo Atlanta’s president, said.
“Ozzie’s life’s contributions are indelible, in the generations of individuals he leaves behind in the gorilla population and in the world’s body of knowledge in the care of his species.
“Our thoughts are with his care team, who have lost a part of their lives and a part of their hearts.”
Ozzie was the only surviving member of the original group of western lowland gorillas who arrived at Zoo Atlanta with the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest in 1988.
He made zoological history in 2009 by becoming the first in the world to voluntarily take a blood pressure test.
Ozzie was the third oldest gorilla in the world.
The oldest is 64-year-old Fatou of the Berlin Zoo in Germany.
The second oldest is 63-year-old Helen, of the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky.
Before his COVID-19 diagnosis, employees at the zoo said they had noticed that the gorillas had been coughing, had runny noses, and showed changes in appetite.
A veterinary lab at the University of Georgia had returned positive test for the respiratory illness.
Zoo officials had also said they believed vaccinated employees passed on the virus to him while asymptomatic.