N.C. Zoo euthanizes adult gorilla

Staff and fans of the North Carolina Zoo are mourning the loss of “Nkosi”, the 21-year-old male gorilla better known to zookeepers as “Nik”. Veterinarians say they were forced to euthanize Nik yesterday afternoon following more than a week of intense treatments and testing for an illness that has yet to be identified.

Nkosi (or "Nik") was at the N.C. Zoo near Asheboro from 2008 to 2013. (N.C. Zoo photo)

Nkosi (or “Nik”) was at the N.C. Zoo near Asheboro from 2008 to 2013. (N.C. Zoo photo)

Nik came to Asheboro from Columbus, Ohio, in early 2008 and fathered two male youngsters who were born in August 2012.

The N.C. Zoo’s Curator of Mammals, Adrian Fowler, said Nik became ill more than a week ago with symptoms that included headaches and loss of appetite. His condition had reportedly “waxed and waned” over the ensuing week until early Sunday morning when he “finally collapsed,” Fowler said.

“Despite the best efforts of the zoo’s veterinary and keeper staffs working round-the-clock, by Sunday morning Nik was unable to move, eat or drink,” Fowler explained. “Experts from other zoos as well as the human medical field were consulted on the case. But based on a variety of clinical signs and laboratory tests, in the end we had no other choice but to euthanize on humane grounds. His situation had become terminal.”

A necropsy, or animal autopsy, was being conducted Tuesday afternoon at the zoo’s Hanes Veterinary Medical Center. Tissues and other samples collected during that procedure will be sent to outside laboratories for further testing in an effort to help determine the nature of the illness. Results of those tests could take several weeks to obtain, Fowler said.

“This is an extremely sad day for the entire zoo,” said N.C. Zoo Director Dr. David Jones, speaking Tuesday. “Our gorilla family has been one of our great successes over the last few years. Nkosi was a terrific father to Bomassa and Apollo and will be very difficult to replace.”

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