After a rash of animal deaths in recent months, there was joy and relief Thursday at Lincoln Park Zoo: A 9-year-old gorilla was reintroduced to her exhibit after nearly two months recovering from a deadly illness.
Rollie, a western lowland gorilla, had suffered from the same virus or bacterial infection that likely killed her 7-year-old sister, Mumbali, who died April 28.
On Thursday, the 120-pound gorilla emerged through an open steel door and circled the perimeter on beams about 15 feet above the ground before cautiously descending to meet join six other apes.
Zoo staff welcomed the primate by spreading Cheerios, sunflower seeds and uncooked bowtie pasta throughout the exhibit floor.
Zoo president Kevin Bell, who has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks from animal-rights groups in the wake of the animal deaths, called Rollie's return "a relief to us all."
Since October, three zoo elephants, two gorillas, a camel and three Francois langur monkeys have died at the zoo.
The Cook County state's attorney's office has opened an investigation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association also are reviewing the zoo's animal care practices.