Cocoa, chimpanzee and popular attraction for the last 12 years at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure, has died after a brief illness.
He was 37 years old.
Cocoa was the alpha male, or the leader, of a group of three other male chimpanzees living at the zoo, located six miles west of Salina. It is believed Cocoa developed an infection from a wound he received from one of the other chimps a few weeks ago, said Kathy Tolbert, director of Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure.
"Chimps are volatile animals, and sometimes they have spats," she said. "The infection stemmed from an older bite wound."
Cocoa didn't reveal his injury until it was too late to save him, Tolbert said.
"Wild animals don't show illness or wounds because it's a sign of weakness," she said. "By the time we became aware of it (July 30), the infection had progressed too far. We couldn't do anything to save him."
He died Saturday.
Born in Africa in 1971, Cocoa was kidnapped from the wild as an infant and sold into the pet trade. He was the pet of a private owner for a few years and then donated for biomedical research. He lived at the Primate Foundation of Arizona until age 25.
In August 1996, Cocoa and his family of three other male chimpanzees were given a home at Rolling Hills.
During his years at the zoo, Cocoa was a gentle but firm leader who made certain that all the other chimps got along, Tolbert said.
"Whenever there were spats, he'd settle them," she said. "You'd usually find him perched high up in the exhibit, watching over the crowd and keeping an eye on the other (chimps)."
Tolbert said the other chimpanzees are aware of the loss of Cocoa and are acting very subdued at the moment.
Wild chimpanzees often live to the age of 50 and in captivity have been known to live 60 years or more. Today chimpanzees are listed as an endangered species with fewer than 150,000 remaining in the wild. The primary threats to their survival are loss of habitat and being hunted for the bushmeat trade.