Quito, the gorilla, found dead in exhibit

Guests can share farewell messages to Quito at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Quito, the iconic and much-loved silverback gorilla at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, has died, zoo officials announced Monday.

According to zookeepers, Quito was discovered Sunday morning in the gorilla enclosure lying down and not moving. Officials said he most likely died Saturday night.

Initial necropsy findings have not revealed any immediate cause of death, but cardiac failure is suspected. Quito had a family history of heart disease, and he has received heart medication for the last three years. Histopathology results may reveal more details, but tests require weeks of lab work.

Quito was born on June 1, 1981, at Boston's Stone Zoo. He came to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in March 1998 from St. Louis Zoo, as part of Jacksonville Zoo's first gorilla group. He became troop leader and an instant favorite among zoo guests and patrons. The zoo said his engaging personality, impressive stature and commanding presence attracted a big fan base of people of all ages.

Quito's birthday celebration, held the last two years, has been attended by hundreds of schoolchildren, Zoo supporters and media personnel.

"We are all mourning the loss of Quito," said Tony Vecchio, executive director of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. "Quito was one of Jacksonville Zoo and Garden's most popular animals. He was also a great ambassador for the Zoo's mission and its dedication to the conservation of rare and endangered species."

As a special tribute to Quito, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will contribute $5 of each paid zoo admission this Saturday to primate conservation. Guests can hang their farewell messages to Quito on the bamboo located on the path between the Range of the Jaguar and the first Great Apes window.

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