Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hercules The Gorilla Dies At Dallas Zoo

HERCULES GORILLAA gorilla named Hercules who once bit a keeper at the Dallas Zoo but remained popular among visitors has died at the grand old age of 43.

The Western lowland silverback died Wednesday after a medical procedure for spinal disease, zoo officials said.

"Hercules was almost 44 years old and for gorillas that are in their 40s and 50s every day is a blessing," said Chuck Siegel, the zoo's deputy director for animal management.

The gorilla had been born in the wild. He arrived in Dallas in 1993 from the Baltimore Zoo.

Hercules seemed to enjoy human visitors, especially children, zoo spokeswoman Susan Eckert told The Dallas Morning News.

"He'd look at you from the side of his eyes, which is good gorilla manners," she said. "In the gorilla world, you don't make full eye contact. He seemed to enjoy looking at the children through the window. He'd sit there and look at them and sometimes put his hands out."

Things weren't so tranquil in 1998, when Hercules made headlines for biting keeper Jennifer McClurg and dragging her down a corridor, seriously injuring her, and then raiding a stash of goodies in a kitchen. Keepers shot him with a tranquilizer dart.

A zoo spokeswoman said at the time that afterward, callers "usually want to know how Jennifer is and they want to know in the same breath how Hercules is."

The zoo has five remaining gorillas, including Jenny, who at about 55 is the oldest gorilla on record in the world, Siegel said.

In 2004, Dallas police shot and killed a 13-year-old gorilla named Jabari at the zoo after it jumped over a wall, bit three people and snatched up a toddler by his teeth during a 40-minute rampage. The enclosure was remodeled and the city paid a $10,000 fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Story here.

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