A Fond Farewell to Ya Kwanza

This week keepers at Jersey Zoo received sad news that former resident silverback gorilla, Ya Kwanza, had passed away at Amneville Zoo in France. The male gorilla died under anaesthesia while undergoing an operation for an injury.

Ya Kwanza was transferred to Amneville in 2011 after 18 years in Jersey where he produced two offspring, Mapema and Ya Pili.

The magnificent silverback was extremely popular with both visitors and staff at the zoo. Former keeper Richard Johnstone Scott comments: “I was deeply saddened to hear about Ya Kwanza's sudden death, having looked after him for eighteen years. He was a magnificent looking silverback who was greatly admired by all who were privileged to have seen him and by staff who knew him well. I have many fond memories of him which include his regular attention- seeking hammerings on my office window”

Lee Durrell also shares her memories of the much-loved gorilla. “Ya Kwanza was a past master at playing the big, fierce gorilla, and he did this often. But I remember him best as a dad. He had few children, but with them, he was gentle and encouraging. I can still picture him sitting quietly with daughter YaPili by his side on a summer’s day in the gorilla outdoor enclosure, delicately plucking tiny flowers from the grass.”

Ya Kwanza, meaning ‘the first’ in Swahili, refers to his birth in in Melbourne Zoo via artificial insemination which was a first for the species.

He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.