After three months of being 60, Vila the world’s oldest gorillas died at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. She was the matriarch of five generations of gorillas.
In 1957, She was born in what is today known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Two years later, in 1959, this gorilla was taken to the zoo and later on, in 1975 she was moved to the safari park.
She was appreciated because she was a surrogate mother for several western lowland gorillas. This species of gorillas is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as one of the most critically endangered ones.
Vila suffered from arthritis and some other health conditions due to her age. Several Zoo workers manifested that she died surrounded by members of her family.
According to Randy Rieches, who is a mammals´ curator at the safari park, “Vila touched many people throughout her lifetime.” and so “She will be missed by zoo members, guests, volunteers, and staff.”
The could be a reason why Vila was so appreciated and love. Besides, it is not common for a Gorilla to live such a long live especially after being a surrogate. Hey usually live around 35 to 40 years old. However, they reproduce slowly, so an infant should be raised for a lot of years before it can give birth again. This fact is what makes the species more vulnerable to population decline.
What is more, they are generally hunted for the bushmeat trade and threatened by habitat destruction, which provokes large forest areas to be cleared for the timber trade, and people cutting trees down.
Lastly, gorilla populations have also been affected by the Ebola virus. Some specialist stated that this virus is more deadly for great apes; 95% for gorillas and 77% for chimpanzees. It is suggested that a third of the world’s gorillas have died from Ebola since the 1990s.
Because of the latest outbreaks which have devastated the ape population, especially gorillas, a scientific team considered that gorillas might be vaccinated to protect the critically endangered animals from further losses. But conservationists´ voices warned that this would be difficult and has risks.
Dr. Peter Walsh from Cambridge University stated that “There are whole areas, hundreds of kilometers in every direction, that have just been wiped out of gorillas.”
Vila could have escaped the Ebola virus and lived a long life because she was protected by her “family.” But this is not a common thing for most gorillas. So we should be conscious of the damages not only this virus can bring about but also the human’s activities which are “killing” animals directly or indirectly by destroying their environment.
Let’s hope that more gorillas like Vila can live long lives and bring more baby gorillas to this world.