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Pittsburgh Zoo's gorilla Mrithi dies at age 31

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A 31-year-old gorilla at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium has died. 

The zoo announced Mrithi, a silverback western lowland gorilla who was the first gorilla born at the zoo in the early 90s, died on Thursday. He had recently been exhibiting mobility problems, and despite medical treatment, the zoo said he went into a sudden decline this week and died during an anesthetic procedure to help determine the cause of his symptoms. 

Mrithi, a 31-year-old gorilla at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium, has died.  (Photo: Paul Selvaggio)

Mrithi, whose name means "prince" in Swahili, was one of the most popular residents at the zoo. He was born in 1992, and generations of visitors watched him grow from a "wide-eyed infant" to an "impressive silverback."

He became the silverback of the group in 2005 after his father died and sired three offspring with Moka and one with Ibo. He's the father of two gorillas born last year: Charlotte, who was born last Valentine's Day, and Bo.

"Mrithi was a wonderful father and played often with his boys," said assistant mammal curator Karen Vacco in a news release. "It wasn't unusual to arrive in the morning to happy rumbles (gorilla laughing) coming from the gorilla bedrooms to find a ball of rolling gorillas with Mrithi in the middle. His favorite thing in the summer was to roll in the pool then tumble in the grass to dry off."   

Western lowland gorillas are currently listed as critically endangered with a rapidly diminishing population, the zoo said. In their native habitat, they live 30 to 40 years. 

The zoo said Mrithi leaves behind a legacy of gorilla conservation as his offspring continue to live there. 

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