St. Louis Zoo employees mourn the loss of “Juma” the gorilla

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – It`s a blue Tuesday as the St. Louis Zoo is mourning the loss of the boss, Juma the gorilla who died from heart disease Monday afternoon.

'Heart disease is probably the most common cause of mortality in gorillas,' says Luis Padilla, Director Animal Health St. Louis Zoo.

His broken heart has led to some other broken hearts here with the keepers who came to know the longtime fixture in Forest Park.

'Juma is a 27-year-old male gorilla had been under treatment for heart disease, initially heart failure for the last four years,' says Padilla.

They made the discovery in November 2011.

'He was just not quite himself having labored breathing,' says Padilla.  'Some of that was in heart failure, fluid builds up in the lungs very similar to what our human counterparts do.'

When keepers came to the conclusion that this western lowlands endangered ape had heart disease they immediately began giving him medicine to help prolong the primate`s life.

'So we know that because of the medications and early diagnosis we were able to have an effect both on his overall life expectancy as well as his quality of life,' says Padilla.

This silverback will be living on to help other apes.

A consortium of concerned zoos began working together to keep these great apes around longer.

'Some of the information that we gain from his life as well as his death will certainly help other gorillas,' says Padilla.  'So he will help be an ambassador for his species even after his death.'