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Male Gorilla Dies in Japanese Zoo

March 24, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ The excitement, or perhaps the pressure, apparently was too much for Sultan. The 28-year-old male gorilla, specially moved to a cage to mate with three females, instead dropped dead.

The 400-pound lowland gorilla ran around briefly and played with his new friends Monday, then suddenly collapsed, apparently after suffering a heart attack, said Kunihiko Yasui, head of animal breeding at Kyoto Municipal Zoo.

Sultan was on a ``breeding loan″ from Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, 230 miles east of Kyoto. World zoos have had difficulty breeding the lowland gorilla, considered on the brink of extinction.

A veterinarian from the zoo rushed to give the gorilla artificial resuscitation but to no avail, Yasui said.

``We’d had him in a cage next to the females since mid-January and thought it would be OK to release him. This is really unfortunate,″ Yasui said.

While age may have been a factor in Sultan’s death, he wasn’t over the hill by gorilla standards. Lowland gorillas typically live to age 35.

It is the most numerous of the three subspecies of gorillas, though only an estimated 100,000 lowland gorilla survive in the wilds of western Africa.

Releasing Sultan with three females was an effort to improve the chance of fertilization. Male lowland gorillas in the wild typically mate with several females.

Sultan’s pelt could end up in science exhibits for school children, Yasui added.

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