Digital Original: Trudy, the oldest gorilla in captivity, memorialized by zoo family

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- “There are good apes and there are great apes,” says Ann Rademacher, a Great Ape Keeper at Little Rock Zoo and the person who worked with Trudy the longest.

Most people who visited the Little Rock Zoo knew her as the “big gorilla,” but for Rademacher, she was more than that – she was a friend and part of her “zoo family.”

Trudy was the oldest living Western Lowland Gorilla to have lived at a zoo. She died last week at the age of 63.

For the last 31 years, she called the Little Rock Zoo home and today her “zoo family” memorialized her with a personalized wreath.

“She was really a tremendous gorilla,” says Rademacher.

Rademacher, says what people don’t know about Trudy was how influential she was to the zoo.

“Trudy was extremely strong-willed and she had very distinct ideas of what she wanted to do,” explains Rademacher. “And she would let you know what they were and she really didn’t know about compromise.”

Trudy was kept with a multi-male group of bachelor apes and helped keep the male pack together, continues Rademacher. A task that the zoo keeper says is not only difficult to do but rare.

“She was instrumental in keeping the group together for 12 years, which is unheard of,” she says.

The 266-pound gorilla will be missed by many, says Rademacher, but understands she is now in a better place.

“We’ve been together a long time but at her age this was inevitable and I feel actually sort of good about the way she went,” Rademacher adds. “She wasn’t ill, she didn’t linger. She just kind of passed peacefully, so there really is no better way to go.”

Now, most gorillas found in zoos are born in captivity, but Trudy was born in the wild.

She was one of the last to be caught and brought into zoo captivity, making her both rare and special, explains the zoo.

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