First Gorilla Born At San Diego Zoo, Dies

After years of failing health, Alvila the first gorilla born at the San Diego Zoo died late last week at the age of 45.


The Western lowland gorilla was euthanized during the morning hours on September 30 because zoo veterinarians could no longer control her pain with medication. 


Zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons said Alvila had suffered from severe osteoarthritis in her knees for the past 20 years.  The gorilla also had spinal problems that required surgery in 2002.


The L.A. Times reported that in “recent weeks, Alvila had rarely left a bedroom area,” from the pain and stiffness she endured.  Other gorillas at the zoo stayed by her side and even brought food to her.


Alvila made national headlines on June 3, 1965 as the first gorilla born at the zoo. Her birth was particularly important because Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered.  She quickly became a favorite animal for zoo visitors to see.


Her parents, Albert and Vila, were born in Africa.  Vila still lives at the zoo and is the third oldest gorilla in North America at the age of 53. 


Alvila and her late mate, Memba had four biological offspring. Later in her life Alvila adopted and raised another baby gorilla named, Imani after she was abandoned by her birth mother. 


Overall Alvila was seen by the other gorillas as the primary maternal role model because of her kindness as a mother, aunt and grandmother.  The L.A. Times said she enjoyed watching the younger gorillas “engaging in rough-and-tumble play.”


Zoo officials allowed the 11 remaining gorillas, including Alvila’s mother, to visit her body one last time after she died.  It helped them realize that she was gone.


Alvila lived most of her life at the San Diego Zoo, but also spent time at zoos in Fresno and Philadelphia.  She and Memba were sent to the Philadelphia Zoo while their habitat in San Diego was being remodeled.  The two were flown in a private jet owned by the San Diego Padres.


Alvila served an important role in her troop at the San Diego Zoo.  Officials say her death will have a major effect on the remaining gorillas.

Creative Commons - Lora_313


jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

So sad

Joy Jin
Joy Jin7 years ago

I'm glad that the zookeepers decided to euthanize her instead of making her endure more pain. She'll go to heaven.

moggy w.
moggy w7 years ago

I am impressed by how like a family the gorillas were.I also applaud the zoo's humanity in allowing the other gorillas to view her body, to know she was gone. I wonder how many other zoos would have realized how important that was, and taken the time to do it.

Julie C.
Julie Carvill7 years ago

Will he go to the rainbow bridge or just to a pack with other gorillas? Rest in peace my love.

Roberto Vivas
Roberto Vivas7 years ago

The Gentle Giant will go to paradise...medical care has to improve in these facilities...

Emily Majors
Emily Majors7 years ago

rip little girl thanks for all you have done

Jennifer Martin
Jennifer M7 years ago

Poor girl. NO more animal exploitation!!!!

DORIS L7 years ago

So sorry to hear this.

Lea M.
Lea M7 years ago

SOME zoos are in horrible conditions for animals. Where some are not. The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park are a great place for animals. They have saved many species and have reintroduced them BACK INTO the wild. Please do not judge a place unless you have been to the zoo/park and have seen what they have accomplished. Gorilla are endanaged animals. Their species is being helped to live healthy lives in the wild. Poaching, hunting, population explosion of the human species is what kills gorillas in the wild. Soon gorillas might become extinct because of us humans. Again some zoos are horrible but not all.

Winefred M.
Winefred M7 years ago

Too bad.