Chessington zoo staff mourn death of 54-year-old Bafia the gorilla

Bafia was the oldest animal in the zoo’s care (Chessington World of Adventures Resort)
Bafia was the oldest animal in the zoo’s care (Chessington World of Adventures Resort)

Staff at a London zoo are mourning the death of a 54-year-old gorilla who had lived there since 1969.

Bafia, described as a “gentle soul”, was Chessington zoo’s oldest critically endangered Western Lowland gorilla.

Chessington World of Adventures Resort, which includes the zoo, announced the gorilla’s death on Friday.

“Bafia was much loved, and will be very much misssd by the whole resort - everyone is extremely sad at her passing,” staff wrote in a statement.

Bafia had been monitored closely in the days leading up to her death, given her age.

She had been receiving treatment for “age-related illnesses for some time” by external specialist vets and the zoo’s welfare team.

The resort said: “However, in the last 10 days her mobility and subsequent quality of life deteriorated rapidly. Despite further treatment and the team’s best efforts, Bafia’s condition failed to improve.

“As such the very hard and agreed decision was made by the vet and our welfare experts to put her to sleep last night.”

Many visitors to the zoo will remember Bafia, the statement said, because she had been living there since 1969, making her the oldest animal in the zoo’s care.

Born in captivity, Bafia was part of endangered species breeding programme, although she did not have any offspring.

Chessington zoo has a troop of nine Western Lowland Gorillas. There are four subspecies of gorilla, with Western Lowland Gorillas being the smallest.

They are also the most widespread subspecies, found across Central and Western Africa, the zoo said. These gorillas live in tropical rainforests and are currently listed as critically endangered.

The biggest threats to gorilla population is the loss of habitat through modification and agriculture; habitat disturbance; being illegally hunted by humans for bushmeat; the live ape trade; climate change; invasive species; energy production and mining; and the spread of diseases from humans.

Chessington zoo was founded in 1931 and became a theme park with the addition of rides in 1987. It is home to more than 1,000 animals, including various endangered species.