Detroit Zoo chimpanzee dies suddenly at age 28

Detroit News staff and wire reports

Royal Oak — A 28-year-old chimpanzee died unexpectedly at the Detroit Zoo.

The zoo said on its Facebook page that Akati collapsed at the Great Apes of Harambee exhibit and died Tuesday.

Akati gives a ride to a youngster. The 28-year-old chimpanzee collapsed and died unexpectedly Tuesday, the Detroit Zoo said.

In the post, the zoo describes her as “a lovely, intelligent being and a wonderful mother” to 7-year-old Ajua and 4-year-old Akira.

Zoo spokeswoman Patricia Mills Janeway said in an email Wednesday that the zoo is awaiting results of a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

Chimp life expectancy is around 32-39 years, Janeway said.

Akati’s death leaves the Detroit Zoo with 11 chimpanzees, she said.

News of the loss spurred visitors to share memories on the zoo’s Facebook page.

One user suggested that Akati “could have given parenting classes to her human-primate counterparts.”

“The patience and care she showed Ajua and Akira as she kept them near her and taught them what they needed to know never ceased to amaze me. She was a wonderful individual and left us far too soon.”

Meanwhile, Ajua and Akira spent Tuesday night “with two older female chimpanzees and a male chimp, all of whom had strong bonds with Akati,” Janeway said. “It’s our hope that these older chimps will ‘foster’ the youngsters, especially Akira.

“Both of Akati’s kids are nutritionally independent and don’t need to be nursed — what they do need is social support from the adults, which we expect they’ll get from this group of three. Last night, Akira slept near the male, Bahati, which is a good sign that their relationship is strong and that he will support her socially.”