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Gorilla Patriarch Mourned

Media Alert: Friday, May 18, 2012


May 18, 2012

Patty Peters
Vice President Community Relations

NOTE:  Photos and video are available upon request.

Powell, OH -- The patriarch of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s internationally recognized gorilla surrogacy program passed away this morning.  Mumbah (MUHM-ba) was born in equatorial Africa and was believed to be 47 years of age, well past a male gorilla’s life expectancy of 31 years.
Mumbah was eating breakfast with his family when he collapsed. The animal care team immediately began attempts to resuscitate him but was unsuccessful. His gorilla and human families were given time to mourn his passing before a necropsy (animal autopsy) was performed. At this time the cause of his death is undetermined.
Mumbah produced one offspring but was the father of 16 adopted gorillas. The animal care team at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are experts in caring for gorillas including the placement of young gorillas who are unable to be cared for by their birth mother with a surrogate family.
“He was a gentle giant who readily accepted youngsters into his family,” said Zoo President and CEO Dale Schmidt. “He was patient but effective at teaching them how to be vital members of a gorilla social group. His legacy will live on through all of the gorillas he helped to raise.”
Mumbah came to the Columbus Zoo in 1984 from Howletts Wild Animal Park in England. Columbus Zoo Director Emeritus Jack Hanna reminisced about bringing him to central Ohio.
“Mel Dodge (former Columbus Recreation and Parks Director) and I became friends with entrepreneur and Howletts Zoo owner John Aspinall in the early 1980s when we visited his park to learn more about their successful gorilla program,” said Hanna. “When we saw Mumbah we were very impressed with his wonderful personality and often talked about him when we returned home. We were thrilled when Mr. Aspinall offered to send him to the Columbus Zoo to join our world-famous gorilla family.”
Mumbah was easily recognizable by his droopy lower lip; reportedly the result of dental work he had undergone while at Howletts.
There are now 15 gorillas at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium including Colo (KOH-low) the first gorilla born in human care who at 55 years of age is the oldest gorilla in a zoo. Two other female gorillas, Pongi (pon-JEE) and Toni, are in their forties and considered geriatric.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 9,000 animals representing 675 species and provides more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium hosts more than two million visitors annually and was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit