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Grande dame of gorillas dies in S.F. zoo

/ Source: The Associated Press

Pogo, one of the world's oldest captive gorillas, died at the San Francisco Zoo with a tummy full of grapes and her cherished baby ape doll close by.

The orphaned West Africa native was 48.

She was found dead Wednesday in the heated sleeping chamber she shared with four other Western lowland gorillas. The younger apes were observing her when keeper Mary Kerr, who worked with Pogo for nearly three decades, discovered the body, zoo spokesman Alexander Winslow said Thursday. "They knew she had passed away," he said.

The 210-pound primate had arthritis, heart disease and lower-back disc disease.

Born in Cameroon and raised by American missionaries and a nurse after her parents were killed for meat, she was donated to the San Francisco Zoo in 1961 when she was 3 years old.

She didn't have offspring but became known as a nurturing "auntie" to younger gorillas.

Visitors left magazines, calendars and even a television.

Pogo's remains will be donated to the University of California, Santa Cruz for anthropology research.

Gorillas can live 35 years or longer in the wild and longer than 50 years in captivity. Some of the oldest include Philadelphia Zoo's Massa, who lived to 54, and Rudy at the Erie Zoo in Pennsylvania, who lived to 49.