Polo, India’s only gorilla, dies in Mysore Zoo of illness

He was born in 1973, and was taken by Leipzig Zoological Garden in Germany, where he was housed till 1992.

Written by Harsha Raj Gatty | Bangalore | Published: April 28, 2014 12:26:54 am
polo-main Polo (41), was buried next to his friend Wali, a chimpanzee.

Polo, the country’s only gorilla, listed as one of the world’s critically endangered species, died at the Mysore Zoo (Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens) on Saturday night. The 41-year old Western Lowland Gorilla was suffering from several old age ailments and was buried next to his old time friend Wali, a chimpanzee, who had died in the same zoo last year.

Polo had been suffering from respiration problems. He had lost his appetite and was fed liquid food supplements along with medication, since he was reluctant to take oral drugs. “Recently, he had drastically reduced his physical activity and even stopped playing with the swing that was his favorite pastime. For a specie whose lifespan averages upto 40, he was quite old and we could not risk tranquilizing him to make a detailed assessment of his health status so we constantly surveiled him,” Executive Director of Mysore Zoo, B  P Ravi said.

Polo was shy natured and an introvert, “He took instructions both in English and Kannada but was adamant on taking command from the old guards. He was not quite friendly with the new ones,” Pandyan, his keeper recollects.

He was born in 1973, and was taken by Leipzig Zoological Garden in Germany, where he was housed till 1992. Later, he was borrowed by the Dublin Zoo in Ireland. Under the recommendation of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) committee, Polo was brought to Mysore Zoo in 1995.

In his initial years, Polo had another gorilla for company. Sumati was at least five years older than him but the two never mated. After Sumati’s death in 2000, Polo remained a loner and became more reserved. Repeated attempts by the authorities to find a mate for him failed. The zoo director was however optimistic of a breakthrough with France by the end of the year. However, he admitted, it was a challenge to convince EEP to lend a fem-ale unless they were convinced that Polo could father a child.

Polo, however, was close to one of the zoo’s most popular attractions Wali, the chimpanzee, who died last year due to left-ventricle hypertrophy.
According to Ravi, for a fortnight Polo’s condition had worsened and for nearly two days he had refused to consume any food.

On the suggestion of the zoo veterinarians, Polo was was administered antibiotics but there had been no improvement. On Saturday night, after severe cough for over two days, Polo did not respond to the treatment and succumbed.

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