San Francisco Zoo & Gardens announced that Cobby, the oldest male chimpanzee in any accredited North American zoo, passed away on Saturday. He was 63 years old.
“Our hearts are broken with this devastating loss,” Tanya M. Peterson, CEO and Executive Director of San Francisco Zoological Society, said in a statement.
“Cobby was both a charismatic and compassionate leader of our chimpanzee troop. For so many years, he was a protective companion, demonstrating patience and resiliency. He also was a favorite of visitors and staff, recognizing so many of us.”
The ‘venerable’ chimp came to the zoo in the 1960’s with two females, Minnie and Maggie, who have been his companions for over 42 years. “His absence will be especially hard for them,” stated Peterson.
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Before his death, he was the wise elder who helped introduce four new chimps to the troop.
While he made deep connections with other chimps, he also formed close bonds with his caretakers.
Cobby was human-reared and a performing chimp before coming to the zoo. He loved interacting with humans and enjoyed the large viewing windows.
One of the things his caretakers say they will miss the most is his “‘goodnight’ to them with a soft pant-hoot.”
The beloved chimp never had offspring but was nicknamed “Papa” by the staff. He would spend his days lounging around eating snacks, but always found the strength to climb up high to spend time with his “favorite girl Minnie.”
While the official cause of death has not been released, the zoo believes old age played a role.
Chimpanzees, one of our closest living relatives, are endangered with only 172,000-300,000 remaining in the wild. They have a life expectancy of 33 in the wild and 50-60 under human care. Cobby surpassed that and many people credit the caretakers for their incredible care.
The zoo posted the sad news on Facebook and asked people to share their memories of Cobby in the comments.
“Cobby was part of San Francisco,” said Peterson. “He touched so many lives, and people have so many memories of him. He is irreplaceable, and our hearts are broken. We will all miss seeing his handsome grey beard watching over us from the top platform of the yard.”
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