Mumbah, a Columbus Zoo gorilla who was a father to 16 adopted gorillas, died Friday, May 18.

Mumbah, a Columbus Zoo gorilla who was a father to 16 adopted gorillas, died Friday, May 18.

Keepers said he was eating breakfast with his family that morning when he collapsed. The animal care team was unable to resuscitate him despite several attempts.

Mumbah was the patriarch of the zoo's internationally recognized gorilla surrogacy program.

At around 47 years old, he had long surpassed the life expectancy for a male gorilla, which is about 31 years.

An autopsy revealed he died from age-related heart failure. He had suffered from hypertension for years, said Patty Peters, the zoo's vice president of community relations.

Mumbah was born wild in equatorial Africa and introduced at an English zoo in 1965 before he came to the Columbus Zoo in 1984.

His droopy lower lip, reportedly the result of early dental work, made him instantly recognizable.

Peters said Mumbah was remarkable in his eagerness to take on a fatherly role.

"Normally a big male gorilla will not accept youngsters," she said. "He not only accepted them, but helped rear them and taught them to be gorillas on their own."

Mumbah produced one offspring but ultimately became a father to 16 adopted gorillas. When a young gorilla is unable to be cared for by its birth mother, it is placed with a surrogate family.

"He was patient but effective at teaching them how to be vital members of a gorilla social group. His legacy will live on through all of the gorillas he helped to raise," said zoo President and CEO Dale Schmidt in a news release.

Mumbah was beloved by zoo guests, Peters said.

By Monday afternoon, May 21, more than 350 people had left comments mourning his death on the zoo's Facebook page.

"I have some great pics of Mumbah, because he always looked like he was meditating on something important," wrote Moriah Parrish. "He had a gravity not often seen in Homo Sapiens, and I loved the way he would quietly return my stare."

The zoo now has 15 gorillas including Colo, a 55- year-old female who was the first gorilla born in a zoo and currently the oldest in any zoo.

Two other females, Pongi and Toni, are in their 40s.



Mumbah, who arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 1984, died Friday, May 18 at age 47.