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Alvila, first gorilla born at the San Diego Zoo, dies

October 5, 2010 |  6:00 pm

Gorilla The San Diego Zoo said goodbye last week to Alvila, a 45-year-old western lowland gorilla who was the first gorilla to be born there.

Alvila was euthanized Thursday morning after zoo staff determined that her pain could no longer be managed with medication. She had suffered from osteoarthritis in her knees for more than 20 years and had back surgery for a herniated intervertebral lumbar disc in 2002.

In recent weeks, Alvila had rarely left a "bedroom" area out of view of the public. Other gorillas hovered nearby, even bringing her food.

Alvila was the first gorilla to be born at the zoo and lived there for most of her life, though she spent some time at zoos in Fresno and Philadelphia. Her parents, Albert and Vila, were born in Africa. Vila still lives at the San Diego Zoo and is one of the oldest gorillas currently living in a North American zoo; she celebrated her 52nd birthday last October.

Alvila had four biological offspring, raised another baby gorilla, Imani, who had been rejected by her birth mother, and was generally seen as a maternal figure within the zoo's gorilla troop. "She was a good aunt, a good grandmother," keeper Michael Bates told The Times.

Western lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered.

Learn more about Alvila and the San Diego Zoo's remaining gorillas at The Times' local news blog, L.A. Now.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: San Diego Zoo

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