By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A gorilla known for being the patriarch of a renowned gorilla surrogacy program at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio died on Friday at an estimated age of 47, the zoo said.
The popular gorilla, Mumbah, was eating breakfast with his family when he collapsed, the zoo said in a statement. The animal care team was unable to resuscitate him.
Mumbah was born in equatorial Africa around 1965 and brought to the Columbus zoo from England in 1984. He was well past a male gorilla's average life expectancy of 31 years.
The Columbus zoo is one of the leading facilities in gorilla breeding, with 30 gorillas born there since 1956.
The zoo currently houses 15 gorillas, including 55-year-old Colo, the first captive-born gorilla and the oldest gorilla in captivity.
Mumbah was a fundamental component of the zoo's gorilla surrogacy program, the zoo said. He acted as a father figure to young gorillas unable to be cared for by their birth mothers.
"He was a gentle giant who readily accepted youngsters into his family," the zoo president, Dale Schmidt, said in a statement. "He was patient but effective at teaching them how to be vital members of a gorilla social group. His legacy will live on through all of the gorillas he helped to raise."
The zoo's Facebook page has received more than 300 comments mourning Mumbah's death.
(Editing by Mary Slosson and Peter Cooney)