Moko, a captured male silverback western lowland gorilla died of heart failure early Wednesday at the Rio Grande Zoo. He was 44.
Born wild in Africa, he was brought to Albuquerque in 1965 at the age of 3.
Lowland gorillas are indigenous to tropical forests of west-central Africa and are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources/World Conservation Union’s Red List of endangered species.
Gorillas are the largest primates and their only natural enemy is man. Though protected, they are subjected to poaching as bush meat and for body parts that are considered aphrodisiacs in parts of eastern Asia. In addition their habitat is shrinking because of human expansion.
Twelve years ago Moko and his African born mate, Samba, were separated, from a second group of gorillas that is now lead by 17-year-old Marcus.
Moko and Samba, circa 1971 during the caged days at the Rio Grande Zoo.
Moko sired a daughter, Huerfanita, with Samba in 1973. He had lived alone since Samba died two years ago.
Huerfanita is now at the Bronx Zoo, and she has produced eight offspring.
Second generation offspring are: Jamie, Triska, Tommy, Holli, Billy, Honi, Halima, and Leyla.
Third generation offspring are: Little Joe, Imani, Chipua and Suki, Fran (Bweroni) Kongo M’Billi, Sufi Bettine and two yet unnamed males and an unnamed female.
Fourth generation offspring are: Kuchimba, Shana and a yet unnamed male.
In the three successive generations Moko produced 21 offspring and only one -- an infant male -- passed before him.
According to Rio Grande Zoo’s Assistant Curator of Mammals Lynn Tupa there are less than 300 captive Western lowland gorillas in the U.S. and a total of about 400 worldwide.
The current group of gorillas at Albuquerque’s zoo now consists of three males and five females, Tupa said.