One of Bristol Zoo’s best loved and most popular gorillas died early on Wednesday.
Salome was 41 in July and was one of the Zoo’s eight Western Lowland gorillas. Her keepers described her as the most intelligent of them all.
Salome often delighted visitors by building nests on the glass above their heads in the 360 degree viewing area inside the Gorilla House. During the fine weather she spent a lot of her time outside on Gorilla Island.
Salome, who had three babies, was conceived at Bristol Zoo after her mum Lomie was brought to Clifton from London Zoo and introduced to male gorilla Samson.
She was born at London Zoo where she was hand-reared. Salome then moved to Chessington Zoo, where she had her first baby in 1988. She came to Bristol Zoo almost 20 years ago.
In 2004 she became the first gorilla in the world to be given fertility treatment. Keepers noticed she regularly mated but had not conceived. Salome was given the human fertility drug Clomid – which encourages the ovaries to release eggs – and in 2006 gave birth to Komale.
Her third baby was Kukena who was born in September 2011.
After many years of good health, keepers at the Zoo became concerned early this summer about her health when she stopped eating her favourite foods of leafy lettuce, chicory and peppers.
The Zoo’s head vet Michelle Barrows led a team which carried out a thorough medical examination. They were joined by experts from the International Primate Heart Project who conducted tests on Salome’s heart. They discovered she had serious heart disease and she had been on medication for this ever since.
Early on Wednesday 1st November, Salome was found by her keepers in the gorilla house which she shared with her fellow gorillas. She died peacefully in her sleep.
Dr Bryan Carroll, chief executive of the Zoo, said: “Everyone is extremely saddened by Salome’s death.
“So many people knew her and recognised her by a small ginger patch of hair of her head and they would return time and again to see her.
“She was loved by our guests and by our keepers and staff alike. The Zoo has lost one of its most popular animals and one of its great characters. So many of us feel we have lost a friend.”
Bristol Zoological Society, which runs Bristol Zoo, is involved in helping to conserve gorillas in the wild in Cameroon which are threatened by loss of the forests in which they live as well as from poaching and illegal gold mining.
The Society is working in the southern tropical forests and the northern savannas in Cameroon as well as a non-profit organisation that looks after 300 primates in a sanctuary at Mefou National Park.