BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Staff and caregivers at Project Chimps are mourning the loss of one of their rescues this week. News of Sopulu’s passing came Wednesday via Project Chimp’s Facebook page.
According to the Project Chimps website, Sopulu was found unresponsive in his hammock Tuesday morning with his group mate, Arthur, by his side.
Preliminary postmortem examination revealed that Sopulu died of acute cardiac arrest. According to the Great Ape Heart Project, based at Zoo Atlanta, heart disease is a major cause of mortality in all four great ape genera managed in captivity. These four groups include the western lowland gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos.
While cardiac issues, such as sudden cardiac arrest, are common problems among chimpanzees, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the underlying causes of the issues remain widely unknown.
Sopulu arrived at Project Chimps Nov. 30, 2016, from the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana. His group was comprised of seven male chimpanzees and was the second social group to arrive in the mountains of north Georgia.
On Jan. 16, 2018, Sopulu stepped outdoors into one of Project Chimps’ open-air six-acre habitats. It was there that Sopulu braved his fears of the unknown and got to truly experience the outdoors for the first time in his life.
Fifteen-year-old Sopulu was born June 23, 2002, and was just a little over a month away from celebrating his sixteenth birthday Project Chimps style, with extra treats and colorful enrichment activities to mark his special day.
Sopulu will be cremated and his remains planted with a native tree or fruit tree on the sanctuary grounds. The memorial site will be marked with a plaque to commemorate his special life.
“Sopulu was beloved by caregivers and chimpanzees for his friendly and playful personality,” Executive Director of Project Chimps Ali Crumpacker recalled of the great ape and added, “We are grateful to have been able to provide him with a year and a half of love and care in our sanctuary.”
Featured Image: A stunning portrait of Sopulu while in Project Chimps care. (Photo by Crystal Alba via Project Chimps website.)
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