Oldest US male chimpanzee dies at San Francisco zoo

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Zoo & Gardens bid farewell Saturday to a longtime visitor favorite, Cobby the chimpanzee, who died at the age of 63.

“Our hearts are broken with this devastating loss,” zoo Director Tanya Peterson told KABC. “Cobby was both a charismatic and compassionate leader of our chimpanzee troop. For so many years, he was a protective companion, demonstrating patience and resiliency.”

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Patterson noted that Cobby’s passing will also be mourned “deeply” by the zoo’s staff, “many of whom cared for him for decades.”

Cobby, who had been ill recently, was the oldest male chimpanzee in an accredited North American zoo, and his age is believed to be a factor in his death, though a formal cause has not yet been determined.

Zoo officials also cautioned that Cobby’s companions for more than 42 years, females Minnie and Maggie who are both 52, are expected to take the loss hard. The trio, along with Tallulah who died in 2013, were brought to the San Francisco Zoo in the mid-1960s, KABC reported.

The group moved to the new Great Ape Passage in 2019, a multi-million dollar expanded habitat designed to enable geriatric animals to integrate with younger troop members, the TV station reported.

“Cobby was part of San Francisco. He touched so many lives, and people have so many memories of him. He is irreplaceable, and our hearts are broken. We will all miss seeing his handsome grey beard watching over us from the top platform of the yard,” Peterson told KABC.

According to the International Union for Conservation and Nature Red List, chimpanzees are endangered and are among the most at-risk primates in Africa, where hunting, habitat loss and disease have culled their numbers to fewer than 200,000 in the wild.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.