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Joey, Beloved Chimpanzee At Sacramento Zoo, Dies At 57

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A beloved chimpanzee who arrived at the Sacramento Zoo in 1967 died Sunday at the age of 57, zoo officials announced on Wednesday.

The zoo confirmed in a news release that the chimpanzee, named Joey, died May 30 in his habitat shortly after his mid-day meal while surrounded by the rest of the chimpanzees – Amelia, Dougie, Maria and Pablo.

Joey the chimpanzee (credit: Sacramento Zoo)

Before arriving in Sacramento, Joey initially was at a now-defunct facility in the Ventura County city Thousand Oaks.

The Sacramento Zoo said Joey far exceeded the life expectancy of 32.5 years for male chimpanzees in human care. He was the oldest mammal at the zoo and was one of the four oldest chimpanzees in the care of Association of Zoo & Aquarium professionals, an organization of which the Sacramento Zoo is accredited through March 2024.

Joey was the dominant male chimpanzee at the zoo for most of his adulthood, according to the zoo. Though he never had offspring, Joey had a special bond with one of the younger chimpanzees in his troop.

"When Maria was born in 1999, it was the first time Joey was around a baby and he was wonderful around her," Animal Care Supervisor Janine Steele said. "As Maria got older, Joey would try to play with her and sometimes play too rough. He eventually learned to not make Maria cry and they would play for hours."

Zookeeper Tom Nakayama remembered seeing Joey at the Sacramento Zoo back in the 70s.

"When I was a kid in 1976, I remember visiting the chimps and seeing Joey. I never imagined I would end up being one of his primary caregivers for almost three decades. Almost half of our lives!" Nakayama said. "I'm so thankful for what Joey has taught me, especially the virtue of patience. Seeing him transition from powerful alpha to a loving 'uncle' for baby Maria, to a dignified old man. I'll miss you, Joey."

According to the Sacramento Zoo, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has chimpanzees listed as endangered, and their biggest threats are habitat loss due to deforestation, illegal pet and bushmeat trade and disease.

The zoo said there were an estimated 1-2 million chimpanzees across 25 countries in Africa 100 years ago, and now, there are as few as 350,000 wild chimpanzees across Africa.

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