KIGALI: The world’s most famous mountain gorilla Titus, aka the Gorilla King, has died at the age of 35, the Rwandan national parks office said Tuesday.
‘He was born on August 24, 1974 and has been observed closely by researchers throughout his entire life. Tragically, he succumbed to old age on September 14,’ a statement said.
Rwanda’s oldest silverback was made famous notably by a BBC documentary broadcast in 2008 and called ‘Titus: the Gorilla King.’
YoG Ambassador Ian Redmond, who knew Titus since infancy, said: “The death of any individual who plays such an important role in his community is a sad occasion. All who knew Titus will mourn his passing in their own way – whether gorilla or human. For me it is like losing an old friend – he was the first gorilla I saw when beginning my work as Dian Fossey’s research assistant in 1976. He was a playful two-year-old and I was a newly graduated biologist, so we both had a lot to learn. But Titus’s death from natural causes at 35 is also a triumph for conservation – how wonderful that we humans have been able to leave him the space to flourish and become the most successful silverback on record, then grow old and die surrounded by his family. The King is dead, yes, but long live the King – his son Kuryama.”
The highly-endangered mountain gorillas are found only on the slopes of the Virunga mountains on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fewer than 700 mountain gorillas are left, according to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Both Rwanda and Uganda have turned gorilla tracking into a major eco-tourism industry and a big foreign-currency earner.
Legendary American primatologist Dian Fossey, who until her brutal murder in 1985 lived in the Virunga, is credited with bringing the mountain gorilla’s plight to the world’s attention and most likely saving it from extinction.
Fossey’s isolated life in the mountains of Rwanda was immortalised in the 1988 Hollywood movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist.’— AFP