Mogo Zoo is in mourning after its beautiful silverback gorilla Kibabu died suddenly on Saturday (25 August).
Tributes are flowing in from interstate and around the world for the 41-year-old primate, described as “a very wise soul” by the zoo’s owner Sally Padey.
Kibabu’s death was unexpected, with Ms Padey telling The RiotACT that he hadn’t been sick and didn’t suffer at all. An autopsy is being completed but at this stage, they are suspecting the cause was a heart attack.
“He was quite a famous gorilla around the world,” said Ms Padey, who has been inundated with emails and messages of condolence.
Posting on Mogo Zoo’s Facebook site, Ms Padey shared the news of Kibabu’s death, writing that the message was “one of the hardest I have had to write for Mogo Zoo”.
“Five years ago Kibabu our beautiful silverback gorilla and his family came to live at Mogo Zoo,” Ms Padey wrote.
“It was such an honour to share these five years with Kibabu – with his integrity as a leader and father – and just to be in his presence was always a very powerful experience, not only for me but for all who knew him.
“All at Mogo are truly devastated at this time with his passing. Vale Kibabu 1977 to 2018.”
Kibabu leaves behind at Mogo Zoo his mate, Kriba, and their daughter, Kipenzi, who have been taken off public display in order to give them time to grieve.
Kibabu was a Western Lowland Gorilla and he and his family moved from Taronga Zoo to Mogo Zoo in 2013. They originated from Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands and arrived at Taronga in 1996 as part of an international breeding program.
A Mogo Zoo Facebook post from August 2013, captures Ms Padey’s excitement at the impending arrival of Kibabu and his family at the time.
“Sally first encountered Kibabu at Taronga Zoo 16 years ago. Sally stood at the glass in awe of Kibabu as he was beating his chest during a demonstration of dominance,” the post states.
“Since then, it has been Sally’s long-term dream to house and care for gorillas at Mogo Zoo. Sally’s dream is about to come true and we’ve never seen her so proud and excited – she simply can’t wait.”
The extent of Kibabu’s popularity can be seen in the huge response to the Facebook post about his death, with 1,900 people responding to the post so far, and 386 comments and 331 people sharing the post.
Among those to comment were a number of former keepers and members of the public.
“I am in tears to hear this sad news. I had the privilege of working with him at Taronga and he started my career as a gorilla keeper,” wrote Lisa Ridley.
“He truly was a magnificent gentle giant, a wonderful father and an amazing leader to his family. RIP Kibabu you will forever be in my heart…sending much love to all at Mogo.”
“He was one of a kind and I felt so lucky to have worked with him. Thanks Sal. Thoughts are with Kriba, Kipenzi, Sal, Lou, Lisa and the gorilla team at Mogo and all who worked with him, admired him and loved him from around the globe,” wrote Sophie Miller.
“Thoughts with everyone at Mogo, and especially Lou [Grossfeldt], who knew him best and was there to share his last moments. Fly high big fellow. Your presence won’t be forgotten. Your legacy lives on,” wrote Dave Blissett.
“RIP, and thoughts with the zoo owners and all the keepers. And feeling very blessed to have only been there a couple of months ago and my little boy was able to have an up-close experience and interaction with Kibabu as he sunned his back whilst looking out the glass – a perfect opportunity for my two-year-old to have a chat and a “touch”,” wrote Lisa Jenkins.
Perhaps a fitting way to finish is with this comment from one of Kibabu’s adoring public, Shirley Kirkwood, who adds a touch of humour to her condolence that the big gorilla may well have appreciated.
“Oh my, how sad. He was just the most wonderful fella. I adored standing watching him for ages at Taronga and down at Mogo. I recall someone talking about all his extraordinary attributes in a presentation and I couldn’t help but put up my hand and ask….”Is he on RSVP”? For those who worked directly with him, my condolences, but he has left an extraordinary legacy in all his offspring,” she wrote.