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World's second-oldest gorilla, Helen, dies at Louisville Zoo

Despite a typical life expectancy of 39 years for a female gorilla, Helen surpassed that at 64 years old.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The “Grand Dame” of the gorilla world has died.

Officials at the Louisville Zoo said the second-oldest Gorilla in the world, Helen, was euthanized.

Helen, who was known for her big personality and longevity, had been on quality-of-life watch due to her health being on decline for several months.

The zoo said Helen was in good help for most of her life and experienced age-related arthritis and some periodontal disease. Recently, they say, she had developed “increasing instability and tremors” and it put her at greater risk of falling, impacting her day-to-day life.

Despite a typical life expectancy of a female gorilla being 39 years, Helen surpassed that and was 64-years-old.

“Letting go of a special gorilla like Helen is very hard, but it is often the last, best thing we can do for our animals,” Louisville Zoo Director Dan Maloney said. “Helen’s exceptional longevity is not only a testament to her personal constitution, but also to the outstanding care provided by her keeper team and the animal health care staff over these past 20 years. Helen was one of our most beloved ambassadors. Her fascination with human babies delighted families for decades. I know our friends and members will share in her loss and miss her greatly.”

Helen arrived at the Louisville Zoo in 2002 and because she was born in the wild in West Africa, they say her estimated birth year was 1958.

Her birthday was recognized every January to celebrate her being the oldest gorilla in North America and the second-oldest in the world.

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