One of the best fathers ever to spend time with his children at the Louisville Zoo has passed away.
Frank the gorilla, 44, was euthanized on Thursday after years of living with medical problems. He had lived at the Louisville Zoo since the 2002 opening of its Gorilla Forest and had been treated by a team of specialists for problems including heart disease and chronic arthritis.
"The medications we were using just basically discontinued working and he was in a lot of pain," said Louisville Zoo animal curator Steve Wing.
Frank had been either unwilling or unable to move since earlier this week, Wing said. Gorillas usually live to be about 25 in the wild, with age-related health problems setting in at around 30, he said.
But the big silverback leaves a strong legacy. He fathered 14 children of his own, Wing said, and helped to raise countless others.
"I think he was definitely a favorite here in Louisville because of the kids he produced and how he interacted with the kids," Wing said.
Frank spent most of his life at the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo after being born wild in Cameroon.
Because of his patience with young gorillas, many were able to be introduced to the community at six to seven months old, rather than up to a year, which is more common.
"He was never aggressive with them, even though they were not his own," said Dave Bernier, Curator of Mammals at Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo. "He could keep order just by looking over his shoulder."
For his firm, loving hand, Chicago Tribune Magazine named Frank its father of the year in 1998.
Frank's health problems began during his time in Chicago. He received physical therapy, which he didn't care for, Bernier said.
"After a while, he just wouldn't bend his leg," he said.
But Frank adapted to his health problems quickly, Bernier said, and was able to climb and move around well. Frank also had orthopedic surgery performed by the team surgeon for the Chicago Bulls.
"They get better medical care than I do," Bernier said. "I couldn't get a Bulls' doctor to operate on me."
In Louisville, condolences are coming in from other professionals and zoo visitors, and Wing expects more, he said.
"Even though we have known that he's an older gorilla, I think we're still a little stunned," he said. "We're getting a lot of e-mails wishing us the best."