Zoo mourns death of Pongi the gorilla

By Gary Budzak

February 3, 2014

Pongi (pronounced pon-JEE), a female western lowland gorilla, died Feb. 1 at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell. She was believed to be 49 years old.

“Pongi had been at the Columbus Zoo since 1985, so a lot of people knew her,” Zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters told The Gazette. “In addition to having her own three babies, she took in three babies from mothers who were incapable of taking care of theirs and raised them as her own. She was very special.”

Pongi was a surrogate mom to 8-month-old Kamoli at the time of her death.

“Pongi was a supremely confident gorilla,” said Assistant Curator Audra Meinelt in a news release. “She loved and cared for Kamoli and he is now fully integrated into a fantastic group of gorillas.”

“She will be missed by her gorilla and human families, including the central Ohio residents who have spent so much time with her and the other gorillas at the Zoo,” said Zoo President and CEO Tom Stalf.

The Zoo said Pongi had been experiencing lethargy, trembling, elevated respiration and a droopy lip and was being examined at the time of her death.

“There was nothing abnormal in the preliminary examination including cardiac ultrasound,” Dr. Randy Junge said in the release. “Unfortunately she arrested during recovery and extensive efforts to resuscitate were unsuccessful.”

A necropsy is being performed.

The median life expectancy for gorillas is 37 years old. There are now 15 gorillas at the Columbus Zoo and 350 at North American zoos.

Peters said there will be no public funeral, but memories of Pongi can be posted on the Zoo’s Facebook page.