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Young Gorilla Who Won Hearts Dies At Columbus Zoo

Media Alert: Thursday, March 17, 2011


March 17, 2011

Patty Peters                                                         
Vice President Community Relations

NOTE TO MEDIA:  Photographs and video are available upon request.

Powell, OH – One-year-old gorilla, Misha (MEE-sha), died early this morning after a team of experts from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, along with medical professionals from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and MedVet Medical and Cancer Center for Pets, worked around the clock to try and save her.
On Mar. 3 animal care staff noticed Misha had flu-like symptoms. Despite treatment her condition worsened and she was in intensive care at the Zoo’s Animal Health Center for the past week. On Mar. 16, based on information gained from diagnostic tests, the decision was made to perform emergency exploratory surgery. The team discovered she had a perforated bowel and it was surgically repaired; however due to the severity of her disease she died several hours after surgery. Although the results of a necropsy (animal autopsy) will take weeks, the perforations of the bowel are likely a result of an intestinal infection.
“Misha was a fighter supported by a team of animal care experts, health professionals, and zoo supporters who were all pulling for her to conquer all of the challenges life threw at her” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Dale Schmidt. “She won the hearts of everyone who heard her story and our hearts are broken by her loss.”
Misha’s story
Misha was born at the Louisville Zoo on Feb. 6, 2010. When she was less than two months old an interaction within her family group resulted in Misha losing part of her left leg and breaking a bone near her left hip. Hand rearing Misha was necessary to aid and speed her recovery following her critical injury and the Louisville Zoo staff provided the care and expertise to help her regain her strength.
With the goal to get Misha back into a gorilla family, Louisville Zoo animal care staff consulted with the nation’s leading gorilla experts and decided to relocate Misha to the Columbus Zoo since her mother didn’t have surrogacy history or training that would provide the best possible care for her.  The gorilla program at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is internationally recognized for caring for gorillas in social groups including the placement of young gorillas with surrogate mothers to become integral members of a family group. Surrogates are taught to not only care for their baby like their own but also to bring the baby over to staff when prompted for bottle feedings, medication and regular check-ups.
Misha came to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from the Louisville Zoo on May 24, 2010. She received 24/7 care from the Columbus Zoo animal care team who raised the infant next to other gorillas while identifying a surrogate mom to integrate her into a Columbus Zoo gorilla family.
On Aug. 23, 2010 Misha was placed with Pongi (PON-jee), a 47-year-old non-reproductive female who had bonded with Misha and has been the surrogate mother to another gorilla infant. On Aug. 28, 2010 Misha was exploring the habitat when her uninjured leg became stuck in a climbing structure. Without the use of her other leg she was unable to easily remove herself from feeling caught and vocalized in distress. Pongi quickly responded and in removing her from the structure caused injury to Misha’s hip. A cast was applied and Misha was once again provided with round-the-clock care from her human caregivers until she was fully healed.
On Oct. 13, 2010 Misha was returned to Pongi’s care and was living in a social group of gorillas that included a silver-back male and youngsters. There are now 15 gorillas at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year. General admission is $14.00 for adults, $10.00 for seniors 60+ years of age and $9.00 for children ages 2 to 9.  Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free. The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.)  For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit