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First gorilla born in Australia Mzuri dies in France

Melbourne's famous and much loved gorilla, Mzuri, has died in France at the age of 32.

The first gorilla born in Australia on June 3, 1984, Mzuri also gained international fame for being the first primate born through artificial insemination.

Melbourne Zoo director Kevin Tanner said Mzuri, whose name meant beautiful, died in the French zoo where he was living with a band of bachelor gorillas.

"Everyone who worked with Mzuri over the years found him to be loveable, intelligent, and affectionate," Melbourne Zoo said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

"Many zoo staff, volunteers, members, and frequent visitors will have wonderful memories of such a special individual."

Mzuri was officially named Ya Kwanza, meaning 'The First' after a public naming competition.


His mum Yuska is still at Melbourne Zoo, but his dad Rigo died in 2013.

Yuska needed help to look after her firstborn, so senior primate keeper Ulli Weiher took on a co-mothering role.

In 1993, Mzuri was sent to the Jersey Zoo to become the leader of the gorilla band there. 

"It was a sad day for zoo staff and many others in Melbourne when Mzuri departed," the statement said.

"However, it was a wonderful opportunity for Mzuri to have his own group at another leading zoo."

After his breeding years in Jersey ended, Mzuri moved to France to take up residence with a band of bachelor gorillas.

"Keepers there were also devoted to him, and they were devastated to have to share the sad news," Melbourne Zoo said.