Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time watching Pete enjoy his domain. I loved it when he sat with his back against the wall resting his hands on a “walking stick” as he watched life unfurling before him. He looked so inquisitive, royal, noble and understanding.
He made me laugh one day when he was sitting as above watching a little sparrow pecking away at whatever seeds had fallen. The little bird hopped closer and closer to Pete pursuing bits of food. Pete watched the little one with deep interest leaning over to get a better look. After few moments Pete began to head fake and make hand gestures to get the bird to hop away. When the bird hopped back Pete would make a more expressive gesture in order to get the little one to fly. This routine went on for quite a while – fly, hop, head fake, fly, hop…
I’m pretty sure I was watching Pete laugh at himself and his little pal.
From the Woodland Park Zoo:
“We have some sad news to share with our zoo family. Our beloved Pete passed away last night at 50 years old. The western lowland gorilla was one of the oldest gorillas in North America and lived a long, enriched life thanks to his team of dedicated keepers who were with him until the very end. The big guy was known as “the gentlemen of gorillas” by his animal caretakers, and many of you grew up watching Pete and Nina (who passed away three years ago) reign as grandmother and grandfather of our gorilla group. Pete’s gentleness, patience, strength, kindness and leadership made him a favorite with his companions. Pete was a remarkable gorilla, and his legacy lives on in his 19 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren (including the zoo’s youngest gorilla Yola), and one great-great-grandchild. The foundation of the zoo’s gorilla program, Pete will be forever remembered with all our love and fondness—knowing his presence inspired so many of you to take action for gorillas in the wild. Our promise to Pete will be to continue to do all we can to protect gorilla habitat and ensure a future for all gorillas.
While we are waiting to hear the exact cause of death, Pete was a geriatric gorilla and had been showing signs of slowing down. Our keepers and animal health staff were monitoring his health closely. We will update you here as we learn more. Animal care staff will evaluate Amanda’s living arrangements to ensure her continued care and welfare. The 48-year-old gorilla was Pete’s companion after Nina passed away.
Thank you for your love and warm memories of Pete. It means so much to his keepers during this time.”