Legendary Paignton Zoo gorilla dies after illness

The UK's oldest silverback gorilla, has died at the age of 42
-Credit: (Image: Miriam Haas)

Paignton Zoo has announced the death of the UK's oldest silverback gorilla, Pertinax, at an impressive 42 years old. The beloved western lowland primate had lived at the Devon zoo for almost three decades, having first arrived from Germany in 1997.

He was one of the first residents of the zoo's state-of-the-art Ape Centre, opened in 1998 by the late Prince Philip, and went on to become something of a celebrity when he starred as Hank in CBBC's mockumentary-style series, The Zoo, in 2017 and 2018.

Pertinax was a fond favourite among regular visitors to the zoo, with staff describing him as "special", due to his "calm yet somewhat cheeky personality".

During his life at Paignton Zoo, Pertinax became a father figure to many young male gorillas, helping to raise the current younger generation of males that joined him in 2006, and remain at the zoo to this day - Kiondo, Kivu and N’Dowe.

In his later years, he enjoyed a well-earned "retirement", spending his time leisurely exploring his island and enjoying the enrichment provided by his keepers, whom he had formed very close bonds with. He even discovered a love for music, as his keepers took to singing to him.

Pertinax's keepers were with him today (Tuesday) when the difficult decision was taken to have him put down, as he had not been responding to treatment for an underlying illness.

A spokesperson for Paignton Zoo said: "We feel incredibly privileged to have cared for Pertinax for nearly three decades. He was truly one-of-a-kind, and his loss will be felt deeply by our community, especially by his keepers who knew him best. We humbly ask for your support and kindness during this difficult time."