One of the Toronto Zoo's gorillas has been euthanized after having a severe stroke, the zoo announced Tuesday.
Samantha, a 37-year-old Western Lowland Gorilla, was the eldest female of the zoo's seven-member troop.
"It's an extremely sad time for us at the zoo," said Chris Dutton, a zoo veterinarian. "To us, it's like losing a member of our own family."
Samantha had a severe stroke late Sunday or early Monday that left her immobile and suffering seizures, Dr. Dutton said. The stroke was her second in a month: Her right arm was left paralyzed after a stroke in mid July.
"We felt the prognosis was extremely poor and that her quality of life would be poor and so we anesthetized her, gave her a quick examination and then euthanized her," he said.
After Samantha was euthanized on Monday morning, zoo staff let the other gorillas join her to "get some form of closure," Dr. Dutton said.
"They went in with her and they did touch her and they did feel her gently and I think they realized … that she'd passed away and there was a sort of peace, as I understand it, that sort of overcame the group and then they left her alone. So it's very touching, I mean it's very, very emotional."
Samantha, who was one of the zoo's original animals, joined in 1974 at age two. The zoo described her as having a "perpetual pout," "'singing' at breakfast and dinner" and being "an excellent mother." She was also the "favourite" of Charles, the group's dominant male.
With five offspring, Dr. Dutton said Samantha made an important contribution to the North American gorilla population. Two of her children are still at the Toronto Zoo.
He said the decision whether to replace her would be made by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
While strokes are not common among gorillas, Dr. Dutton said about three female gorillas have had strokes in North America in the past few years.