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Little Rock Zoo Loses Trudy, Oldest Living Western Lowland Gorilla

Thursday, Jul 25, 2019

It is with heavy hearts the Zoo announces the passing of Trudy, the  beloved eldest member of our Western Lowland gorilla group, and at the time of her passing, the oldest living Western Lowland gorilla living in a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  At the age of 63, Trudy outlived most of her counterparts in zoos around the world and in the wild.  

A member of the Little Rock Zoo family for over thirty-one years, Trudy came to her home in Little Rock from the Buffalo Zoo on April 3, 1988. She arrived with gorilla Ollie on a breeding loan and the two settled in and made the Little Rock Zoo their home.  Together, Trudy and Ollie made Little Rock a special place by being the first gorillas ever exhibited in the State of Arkansas.        

Their arrival was marked with a week-long celebration from June 16-19, 1988, called the Great EscAPE. It included a Safari-themed VIP party featuring a visit from Jack Hanna, and a Friends of the Zoo member-only preview picnic.  The general public was invited to meet the new additions as a part of regular Zoo admission later that week.   

Trudy’s story is a unique one as she was one of the last “wild caught” gorillas to be held in a zoo in the United States.  This is no longer done by AZA accredited zoos.  Generally, gorillas in North America today are born in zoos.  

When described by one of her former keepers, Syd Tanner, Trudy was called a “hardy gal that did what she wanted to do when she wanted.”  Trudy was unusual in the fact that she always lived with bachelor or all-male groups.  Even though she lived with all males, she ruled everything and was the boss lady, according to Tanner.

Catherine Tidwell also added that Trudy was spunky with a mind of her own and a way of communicating what she wanted and when. Catherine also stated that though it is atypical for females to live with bachelor groups, she “ruled the roost” and was definitely the queen. 

An endearing quality that both keepers shared about Trudy was that she would make a natural gorilla vocalization sound referred to as a purr, grumble or hum.  Trudy would make this sound whenever it was time for food or she saw someone she liked, according to Tidwell.

“There are so many memories, stories and anecdotes to share about Trudy. She is a cherished member of the Little Rock Zoo family.  To say that she will be missed and that her absence is felt is an understatement. We are glad to know she had a good home with us here,” said Little Rock Zoo Director Susan Altrui.  

To learn more about Trudy, please contact

About the Zoo

The Little Rock Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things.  With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.  For more information, visit


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