A 45-year-old Western lowland gorilla died Saturday night at the Louisville Zoo, four years after her arrival from the Bronx Zoo.
Tunuka died of peritonitis, an inflammation of the thin membrane that lines the abdominal wall, according to the zoo.
"She was a tough, cranky female when she arrived here in 2004," Gorilla Forest supervisor Roby Elsner said in a statement. "But she really mellowed over the past four years at Louisville Zoo. She will definitely be missed."
Tunuka, who was born in the wild before being brought to the Bronx Zoo and then Louisville, was one of four gorillas here who are over 40 and are considered "geriatric," said zoo spokeswoman Kara Bussabarger.
While a zoo fact sheet estimates a typical life span of 25 to 35 years for Western lowland gorillas in captivity, Bussabarger said it's increasingly common for them to live into their 40s.
At the Gorilla Forest exhibit, Frank is 44 years old, Timmy is 49 and Helen is 50.
"We're starting to see gorillas live longer in zoos because of the care they receive," Bussabarger said. "It really speaks to the mission of what Gorilla Forest was created for."
Eleven other gorillas survive Tunuka at the Louisville exhibit.
Tunuka is the second gorilla to die since the Gorilla Forest exhibit opened in 2002. Debbie died of kidney failure in 2003 at age 37.
Tunuka's gorilla group consisted of two 19-year-old females, Mia Moja and Paki, and Timmy, a silverback male, "of whom Tunuka was very fond," the zoo release said. The zoo staff plans to monitor her group to see how they cope with Tunuka's death.
"At least Timmy, Mia Moja and Paki were all there when Tunuka passed away, and to me, that is important for the group," Elsner said in the statement.