Anyone who has visited the Franklin Park over the last few decades has likely spotted Gigi the gorilla – during her most recent exhibit, she would often be seen clutching her favorite stuffed animal, a purple monkey with little bananas printed on it.
Gigi, a 47-year-old western lowland gorilla who took on a “grandmotherly role” to the other gorillas at the zoo, passed away on Saturday.
The decision to humanely euthanize Gigi came after the onset of multiple health issues that would have impacted her quality of life, according to a news release from zoo officials.
“We are deeply saddened to share the news of Gigi’s passing,” John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO, said in the release. “She was part of the zoo family for nearly 40 years, and will be incredibly missed by the staff who has cared for her for so many years.”
Diagnostic tests in May revealed that Gigi’s kidney function had declined, and she also had tumors in her liver and uterus, the release said. A stent was put in to help with urine flow, and that improved Gigi’s well-being for the past six months.
When she wasn’t on exhibit, Gigi’s caretakers spent time giving her medicine, helping her to eat more and to enjoy leisure time doing her favorite things – Gigi was partial to blankets and would make “nests” out of them for stuffed animals, according to the release. She would also indulge in some of her favorite foods, including yogurt, grapes, oatmeal, banana peels, celery and escarole.
As the oldest gorilla in the troop at Franklin Park Zoo, Gigi didn’t care much for spending time with the infant gorillas, but enjoyed time with the ones who were old enough to leave their mothers.
“She even let youngsters Kambiri and Aziza ride on her back,” the release said.
Erica Farrell, an assistant curator for the zoo’s Tropical Forest, said she would watch Gigi’s face and chest, and would notice that she would make a distinctive grumble, letting Farell know she was happy to see her.
“If Gigi really liked you, she would turn her back and sit next to you at the exhibit glass – checking every so often to make sure you were still there,” Farrell said in the release. “She played an integral role in our gorilla troop and has a special place in all of her caretakers’ hearts. We are all going to miss her.”
Gigi was born on July 13, 1972 in the Cincinnati Zoo, according to the release. When she was 7, she moved to the Stone Zoo in Stoneham. It was there that she gave birth to two male babies. She moved to Franklin Park Zoo when the Tropical Forest Pavilion opened in 1989.
“We hope that people will keep Gigi’s care team in their thoughts during this sad time,” Linehan said in the release. “The staff is incredibly dedicated and attentive, and they doted on Gigi.”