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Zookeepers Mourn the Loss of Beloved Male Bonobo at Memphis Zoo

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – “Mofana,” the Memphis Zoo’s lone adult male bonobo, passed away as he slept during the night Friday, August 29. He was discovered early Saturday morning as he appeared to still be peacefully sleeping in his nest. During this difficult time, the Zoo hopes to spread the word on the legacy this special animal leaves behind. 

“Mo,” as he is more affectionately referred to by his keepers, suffered from a degenerative heart condition. Veterinarians will perform an extensive necropsy, but it is believed Mo’s big heart failed as he slept. He was 35 years old. 

“I’ve never seen an animal go in such a peaceful way,” said Matt Thompson, director of animal programs. “He was curled up in his nest, holding his foot like he usually slept.” 

Several years ago, Mo was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. While this diagnosis was very serious at the time, Zoo staff made dietary and lifestyle adjustments for Mo that allowed him to live a strong and healthy life. 

“Mo was a happy playful animal,” said Sandi Shoemaker, primate keeper. “He loved his keepers and really enjoyed playing slow games of chase with his kids.  He had a tenderness about him that made you thankful to be a part of his life.” 

As a member of the Memphis Zoo family for more than 11 years, Mo saw various changes take place as other bonobos would come and go. He leaves a legacy that will help his entire species as he sired 3 offspring. With dwindling bonobo numbers in the wild, these births are crucial to the survival of the species. 

Two of those births happened in just the last year and a half. “Mobali,” now just over one year old, and “Mpingo,” just four months old, are two sons that are part of Mo’s offspring. Another piece of his legacy has still yet to be seen, as zookeepers and veterinarians determined recently that “Gilda,” is currently pregnant.

“It’s comforting to know that Mo’s sweet personality and goofy grin will live on through his sons,” Shoemaker said. “We can’t wait to see the newest arrival next spring.”

About Bonobos
Bonobos live in remote regions of Africa and their numbers have dropped drastically over the last 20-30 years.. The extractive industries, which remove raw materials from the earth to produce goods for consumers, are especially harmful to the bonobos’ habitats. Fueled by recent demands for various rare earth elements, these industries have brought logging, mining and new roads that serve as conduits for poachers supplying products to the bushmeat trade.  

An easy way to help with bonobo conservation is cell phone recycling. The Zoo has a cell phone recycling kiosk in our lobby where you can drop your old cell phones and join the movement to save this species.

About Our Bonobos
The Memphis Zoo is home to a group of six bonobos which can be seen at the bonobo exhibit across from hippos. The Memphis Zoo has kept bonobos in the collection since 2003. In honor of Mo, the Zoo is encouraging the community to support its bonobo group through the adoption program. When you adopt an animal, your money goes directly to the care and support of that animal. 

Posted by Zoo Info at 2:28 PM

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