May 16, 2016 - 8:00 PM
CALGARY - A silverback gorilla often called the Calgary Zoo's gentle giant has died at the age of 37.
The zoo says Kakinga died on the weekend of heart failure.
The zoo had been the gorilla's home for more than 30 years after he arrived from the Jersey Zoo in the United Kingdom in 1984.
The median life expectancy for gorillas in captivity is 31.1 years.
Zoo staff say Kakinga was an exceptional silverback — a kind, loving, protective and diligent leader.
Curator Dr. Malu Celli says everyone at the zoo is mourning the loss of western lowland gorilla because of his importance to the troop and his endearing nature.
But Celli says Kakinga will not be forgotten.
“Kakinga’s legacy will live on in his offspring in the Species Survival Plan and in the hearts of those who came to love him over his many years at the Calgary Zoo,” Celli said Monday.
The gorilla leader fathered 13 offspring, eight of which survive, with the most recent born in March at the zoo
"He was very involved in his role as leader of the troop, acting as a peacekeeper, a protector and, in some very tender moments, a father.
"Kakinga was one of the zoo’s most beloved animals and he will be dearly missed by all who had the privilege to follow his life."
Members of the public wanting to express their condolences are being asked to recycle an old cellphone.
The zoo still has four adult females along with the baby that was born in March.
News from © The Canadian Press , 2016