SALT LAKE CITY — A beloved female 44-year-old western lowland gorilla passed away at Utah's Hogle Zoo.
Born November 2, 1977, at the Lincoln Park Zoo, 'Jo Ray K' came to Utah’s Hogle Zoo in 2011 from the Denver Zoo, according to a news release.
At the age of 44, Jo Ray K was considered elderly for a gorilla, as their median life expectancy in the wild is 35 years old.
According to Hogle Zoo, Jo Ray K had developed chronic conditions over the years such as dental disease, decreased mobility, weakness and showing confusion and her long-term health conditions were treated daily.
"When the animal care staff, zoo management, and the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Dr. Erika Crook determined that her condition had declined significantly, the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her was made on February 21, 2022," the zoo's statement read. "Jo Ray K leaves behind a lasting legacy as the matriarch of the troop, mother of Jabali (18- year- old female), and grandmother to Georgia (19-month-old female). Jo Ray K contributed notably to the gorilla population within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)."
Before she came to Utah’s Hogle Zoo, she produced six other offspring.
"Jo Ray K’s care team will remember her spunky and sassy personality. She not only captured the hearts of her troop and keepers, but also the hearts of many guests that visited her frequently," said Erin Jones, Director of Animal Care, “Jo Ray K was truly an ambassador for her species in the wild. She will always be recognized, honored and remembered as Queen Jo.”
Like many geriatric animals, according to the zoo, Jo Ray K was under specialized care for a variety of health conditions and modifications were made within the great ape habitat to help her navigate and increase her comfort. She participated in daily health care by taking medicines to support her health and one medicine to slow signs of dementia.
According Dr. Crook, “Jo Ray K kept us on our toes as we strived to provide her excellent care. The staff assisted her through the steady decline until it was time to peacefully say goodbye.”
The zoo said a full necropsy will be performed, and posthumously, she will participate in AZA’s Great Ape Neuroscience Project whose goal is to study brain related disorders in great apes.