The Detroit Zoo family is mourning the loss of Sunshine, a 34-year-old male silverback gorilla, who died on Tuesday.
“Sunshine was especially impressive because of his size. He was loved by Detroit Zoo staff, docents and visitors, and we all feel a tremendous sense of loss,” said Scott Carter, Director of Conservation and Animal Welfare.
The 550-pound western lowland gorilla was being treated for a flu-like illness for the past few weeks and his condition rapidly worsened on Tuesday. A necropsy is scheduled to learn more about the cause of death.
Sunshine had been treated for heart disease for the past few years and received his most recent cardiac workup in December. Cardiovascular disease, similar to that in humans, is the leading cause of death in captive gorillas. Western lowland gorillas can live into their 30s in the wild and into their 40s in captivity.
Sunshine, who has called the Detroit Zoo home since 1996, was on loan from the Columbus Zoo and was scheduled to return to Columbus with his companion, Toni, a 36-year-old female western lowland gorilla. Toni is still scheduled to go to Columbus.
The Detroit Zoo has a bachelor group of three young male gorillas and expects to receive a breeding group of gorillas in the next year or two. In addition to the gorillas, the Zoo’s Great Apes of Harambee habitat houses 10 chimpanzees, two mandrills and a Diana monkey.
Anyone wishing to make a contribution in Sunshine’s memory to fund either the national research effort on captive gorilla cardiac disease or care of the Detroit Zoo’s Great Apes of Harambee can send donations to: Detroit Zoological Society, 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48067