The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Friday, September 25, 2009

King of The Jungle, Titus, The Gorilla, Died From Wounds

Ruhengeri, Rwanda - Titus, a famous ape known widely as the "Gorilla King," likely died of complications from wounds he received in a fight with another dominant gorilla, according to the veterinarian who led the post-death examination.

Titus was featured in the Dian Fossey biopic, "Gorillas in the Mist." Veterinarian Jan Ramer's revelation in an exclusive interview with The Des Moines Register replaces early reports from tourism officials that Titus had died of old age on Sept. 14.

His death cast a pall across the Virunga Mountains area. He was buried near Fossey, the primatologist who named him, at the Karisoke Research Center.

Scientists said the fact that Titus died a natural death and not at the hands of poachers shows that conservation efforts are working.

A natural death "would not have been possible without 40 years of conservation efforts in the Virunga Mountains," the famed home of many of the world's remaining mountain gorillas, said Ben Beck, conservation director of Great Ape Trust of Iowa, based in Des Moines.

Beck is in Rwanda this week as part of his work on a reforestation and chimpanzee research and conservation project in the Gishwati Forest in western Rwanda.

Ramer, regional veterinary manager of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project here, said test results from the necropsy are pending. However, the examination found that Titus had been bitten by another silverback mountain gorilla and had a broken bone in an arm.

Titus, an orphan who became the longest-reigning silverback gorilla in the Virunga Mountains, had been declining for weeks. He lost control of his group in 2007, and it appeared his son, Inumure, was positioning to take over.

Silverbacks are the dominant adult gorilla in each group.

"We got a report all of a sudden that Titus was near death," Ramer said. "Five days later, he died," after daily monitoring by veterinarians.

"We had to decide: Do we intervene with a 35-year-old silverback who already had lost his group?" Ramer said. "The decision was made not to."

Ironically, Inumure died four days after Titus. Preliminary results of a necropsy showed he had a gastrointestinal illness and complications from bruising. Area scientists got some measure of comfort from news that there are two baby gorillas in the area, Ramer said.

The necropsy was complicated by the fact that Titus' son and other gorillas tended to Titus' dead body for two days, and scientists didn't want to disturb that natural event. Scientists brought the 450-pound gorilla down the steep mountain on a stretcher.

Ramer, on leave from the Indianapolis Zoo for two years, said she was deeply saddened by the loss of the two gorillas.

"This was my very first necropsy, and it was the king of the gorillas," said Ramer, who took her new job seven weeks ago. "He was strong, but gentle. Everyone loved him."

Titus was the nephew of Digit, a Fossey favorite whom poachers killed, cutting off his head and hands in an event recreated in "Gorillas in the Mist." Sigourney Weaver played Fossey in the movie.

BBC featured Titus, who had been studied and photographed since birth, in the documentary "The Gorilla King."

Many believe poachers killed Fossey, who had wounds similar to those inflicted by pongas, the local version of machetes. She died in 1984 after two decades of work in Rwanda.

Perry Beeman is reporting from Rwanda on a fellowship through the International Reporting Project. See updates and photos from his travels at


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