The oldest gorilla in captivity, a 55-year-old female named Jenny, has died at the Dallas Zoo — her home for more than half a century, a spokesman said Friday.
Zoo officials decided to euthanize Jenny on Thursday night because of an inoperable tumor in her stomach. Jenny had stopped eating and drinking recently, and tests showed she was unlikely to recover, zoo spokesman Sean Greene said.
"The last couple of weeks we noticed that she hadn't been feeling all that great," Greene said. "It was a quality-of-life decision."
The International Species Information System, which maintains records on animals at 700 institutions around the world, confirmed earlier this year that Jenny was the oldest gorilla in its database.
The zoo held a birthday bash in May to celebrate Jenny's longevity, complete with a cake made of a frozen fruit treats for the guest of honor.
Jenny was said to have a sweet disposition and enjoyed being around people. She was often seen napping below a fig tree in her habitat.
"We had a tough time saying goodbye," said Todd Bowsher, curator of the zoo's mammals in the Wilds of Africa exhibit.
"It's very sad that she's passed on, but what a great life she's had," said Kristen Lukas, curator of conservation and science at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio and the gorilla species survival plan coordinator for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Jenny, a Western lowland gorilla, was born in the wild and was acquired by the zoo in 1957. She gave birth in 1965 to a female named Vicki, and officials aren't sure why she didn't conceive again. Vicki was sent to a Canadian zoo at age 5.
At the time of Jenny's death she was one of five gorillas at the Dallas Zoo.
Gorillas in the wild normally live to age 30 or 35, but they can survive years longer in a zoo, with veterinary care and protection from predators. Still, of the roughly 360 gorillas in North American zoos, only four were over 50 as of this spring.
According to the International Species Information System, the oldest living gorilla is now Colo, a 51-year-old female at the Columbus Zoo who was the first gorilla born in captivity.
Just last month, another gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, 43-year-old Hercules, died after undergoing a medical procedure for spinal disease.
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. The enclosure was remodeled and the city paid a fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.