Zoo Atlanta, via Facebook

Shamba was one of the original "Golden Girl" primates.

Michelle Darrisaw
October 30, 2017

Zoo keepers, visitors, and fellow Atlantans are mourning the loss of Zoo Atlanta’s most iconic gorilla, Shamba. For more than 30 years, the 58-year-old western lowland gorilla was known for drawing large crowds to the zoological park. But on October 27, Shamba was found unresponsive by caretakers. Her death was officially confirmed by the zoo on Friday, where a preliminary examination determined that her death was due to age-related sickness. However, a necropsy will be performed in the next several weeks to establish the exact nature of death. 

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Shamba made up the super-senior gorilla circle, which also included a 56-year-old male gorilla, Ozzie, and a 54-year-old gorilla named Choomba. Shamba and her female companion, Choomba, were so close that they were affectionately nicknamed the "Golden Girls" by staff at the zoo. Not only that, but as one of the founding gorillas of the Zoo Atlanta program that was started in the 1980s, Shamba was one of the oldest lowland gorillas at the zoo and in the world. Obviously, having lived for a long time, she leaves behind a long line of more than 30 descendants, including her son Taz and his offspring.

Shamba was an extraordinary individual, beloved by her care team and the Zoo Atlanta, and her passing is very difficult," said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions in a press release. “She leaves an incredible legacy behind, not just as a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great grandmother, but as an original member of what is today an award-winning gorilla program because of individuals like her.

A post on the Zoo Atlanta Facebook page was met with hundreds of comments by devastated fans of the gorilla.

"Oh no! I am so sorry to everyone in the Primate Dept at Zoo Atlanta," wrote Becky Richardson. "I used to work with Shamba and she was one of my very beloved favorites. I remember how hard it is to lose these amazing creatures, my heart aches for you."

Stephanie Ann Gallagher also wrote on October 27: "My dad Chris and I got to see her yesterday. Hope she felt no pain."

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Shamba was a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and a great-great grandmother. Per Zoo Atlanta, Shamba's fellow senior group members, Ozzie and Choomba, are said to be behaving normally after the loss of their friend and beloved companion.