EXPIRED: 02/16/10 – Malaika, 38, was born in Toledo, lived in Toledo all her life and died there as well. But something fishy is going on in Toledo. This is the 3rd time in less than a year that one of the great apes in the Toledo Zoo has died and I for one would like to know why.

Malaika was a lowland gorilla, born at the Toledo Zoo in 1971 and was a fixture there all her life.  Her birth was the result of sustained efforts by animal experts at the zoo to bring about successful gorilla pregnancies in captivity. Malaika was the 33rd gorilla to be born in captivity in the United States.

Zoo officials say Malaika developed a cough over the previous ten days and was not responding well to treatment.  A cardiac evaluation showed she was in congestive heart failure.  After the exam she went into cardiopulmonary arrest and was not able to be resuscitated.

Toledo Zoo Executive Director Dr. Anne Baker says Malaika was a beloved ape.

“By bringing three offspring into the zoo gorilla population,” Dr. Baker stated, “Malaika played an important part of the preservation of the species during her long life. Even as we miss her, we take comfort in the legacy that she left behind.” Her three children, including daughter, Johari, and two grandchildren, Bwenzi and Dara, still live at the Zoo’s Kingdom of the Apes.

The life expectancy for gorillas in zoo settings is about 31 years, so she did last nearly a decade longer than most…

Still, something is amiss.

In October 2009, the Toledo Zoo also lost Elaine, a 42-year-old female gorilla.  According to zoo officials, Elaine died from abnormalities in her adrenal glands, kidneys and lungs.  The zoo’s 22-year-old gorilla, Shani, died six months earlier from what is believed to be jaundice.

Once again, I’m conflicted. Zoos do great things by making us aware of endangered species and helping us bring endangered animals populations back from the brink. But I hate writing animal obits more than the one’s I write for humans.

RIP, Malaika. You too, Elaine and Shani. And good luck, Johari, Bwenzi and Dara. You’re gonna need it!



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