Gorilla collapses, dies at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville

Moja // Gladys Porter Zoo Photo

Officials believe heart disease may have claimed the life of a gorilla who died inside his behind-the-scenes quarters at the Gladys Porter Zoo.

Zoo officials confirmed that Moja, a 29-year-old silverback male Western lowland gorilla, suddenly collapsed in his quarters around 10 a.m. Monday.

Just minutes before his death, Moja was seen playfully pounding his chest and hooting at the Zoo TMs gorilla family patriarch.

Zoo officials reported that Moja was diagnosed with heart disease and placed on medication back in September 2010.

Veterinary staff at the zoo are performing a necropsy to determine the exact cause of his death but initial indications implicate heart disease.

Moja was born on March 4, 1984 at Zoo Miami and was transferred to the Gladys Porter Zoo on breeding loan July 3, 1997.

The 29-year-old gorilla sired 13 offspring during his 16 years at the Gladys Porter Zoo.

The zoo's executive director Dr. Patrick Burchfield said Moja will always be remembered by staff and visitors for his grandiose stature and calm disposition.

Moja was a trim, fit animal " the perfect picture of a magnificent silverback male, said . He was both gentle and caring towards the members of his family.

Native to the lowland rain of forests of west and central Africa, western lowland gorillas are critically endangered due to habitat loss and hunting for meat.