Samantha, the Erie Zoo's iconic female western lowland gorilla, was humanely euthanized this past weekend. She would have turned 49 in February, making her one of the oldest gorillas in the United States. She had been suffering from age related issues over the past several months and was receiving medical treatment. However, her condition took a turn for the worst over the past week. She died Saturday and a necropsy was performed at the Cleveland Zoo by Erie Zoo veterinarian, Dr. PJ Polumbo DVM and Cleveland Zoo medical staff. Preliminary findings indicate congestive heart failure, complicated by age-related diminished kidney function. More detailed results will come later from lab tests. The results of the necropsy will also be shared with the "Great Ape Aging Project" which studies health related issues in elderly great apes.
Samantha came to the Zoo in 1965. She was one of two gorillas, the other a male named Henry, that were purchased with thousands of S&H Green Stamps donated to the Zoo by the community. This was the first time such a promotion had ever been held. She lived at the Erie Zoo for several years, and when she reached maturity the decision was made to send her to another zoo in hopes that she would breed and produce offspring. She was paired with males at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, as well as the North Carolina Zoo. Unfortunately, none of these pairings were successful and she was brought back home to Erie. Most recently she made national news when she was given a rabbit companion named Panda, with whom she formed a very close bond.
Samantha will be sadly missed by Zoo staff, especially keepers who cared for her over so many years, and Zoo volunteers who spent a lot of time keeping her occupied in the winter months. Sam was well known to the entire community, and was considered to be the matriarch of the Erie Zoo. Her passing marks the end of an era, since Samantha has been a resident of the zoo longer than any other animal in its history. Her unique personality and behavior truly made her a special member of the Erie Zoo family and she will be sorely missed by all of her admirers. The Zoo will evaluate all options in regards to gorillas and the gorilla exhibit. No decision is expected before spring.