Cleveland Metroparks Zoo today announced the passing of Willy, the Zoo’s adult male elephant, and the birth of a Western lowland gorilla that both happened within minutes of each other around noon on Wednesday, July 19.
“We’re deeply sad to share the passing of Willy, who was an unforgettable ambassador to his species here over the past 12 years and beloved by all of our Zoo team and extended Zoo family,” said Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Executive Director Dr. Chris Kuhar. “As we mourn the loss of Willy, it’s not lost on us that within minutes of his passing, we welcomed the birth of a newborn gorilla – only the second in our history. I want to thank our tremendous and tireless team for their efforts during this emotional day.”
Willy arrived at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2011 and was an invaluable member of the herd alongside females Moshi, Martika, Shenga and Kallie. African elephants are the largest animals that walk the Earth and Willy was well-known for his size, standing at 11 feet at the shoulder and weighing about 13,000 pounds.
At 44 years old, he was also one of the oldest elephants and lived well-beyond the male median life expectancy of 24 years. Due to his age, he had battled long-term health conditions over the past few years and was humanely euthanized following a severe downturn in health.
Born on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 19, to mom, Kebi Moyo (32), and dad, Mokolo (36), the newborn Western lowland gorilla is only the second gorilla born at the Zoo in its 141 years. Kebi and the newborn have already shown positive signs of development including nursing and bonding amongst the other members of the troop. Weighing approximately 4 lbs. at birth, newborn gorillas are in almost constant contact with their mother for the first six months and nurse for about three years.
The newborn is the second gorilla fathered by adult male Mokolo after Kayembe, who was born in October 2021. Kayembe made national attention as the first gorilla born in Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Kayembe's name – which means “extraordinary” – was voted on by Zoo guests and supporters and helped raise funds to secure a future for critically-endangered gorilla species in the wild.
The gorilla troop, including mom and newborn, will not be visible to the public temporarily to encourage bonding. Stay tuned to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's social media for updates on when guests can visit the troop. A public naming opportunity will be announced in the coming days.
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