July 1, 2006

Gorilla dies during heart surgery at Washington zoo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 23-year-old western lowland
gorilla named Kuja died at Washington's National Zoo on
Saturday while having surgery for heart disease, officials

The animal was one of the zoo's two adult male western
lowland gorillas, which are an endangered species native to the
tropical rain forests of western and central Africa.

Kuja died as veterinarians from the University of Alabama
and Auburn University tried to implant an electronic cardiac
device that zoo officials said would have helped his heart pump
more effectively.

On June 20, the gorilla was diagnosed with congestive heart
failure resulting from a chronic disease of the heart muscle
that reduces the organ's ability to pump blood.

Kuja was in congestive heart failure when surgery began on
Saturday morning. As a result, the animal's heart was not
pumping strongly enough to distribute blood through his body
and fluid was building up in his lungs.

Western lowland gorillas, known for their brownish-gray
coat and auburn crest, generally live into their 30s but some
have survived into their 40s and 50s in captivity.

Heart disease is a major cause of death among gorillas in

Kuja, a father of two male gorillas aged 4 and 6, was born
in the Memphis Zoo in 1983 and arrived at the Smithsonian
Institution's National Zoo two years later as part of a
breeding program aimed at preserving the species.

The National Zoo has six other western lowland gorillas.