JoJo, the silverback gorilla at Brookfield Zoo who died July 31 during surgery to treat an acute illness, is destined to become part of the collection at the Field Museum.
The news, first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times last week, was confirmed by officials at the Chicago Zoological Society and the Field Museum. It doesn’t appear that JoJo’s remains will be placed on display.
“We can confirm that JoJo will be added to the Field Museum’s behind-the-scenes collections so that scientists can study his remains to learn more about how gorillas evolved and how we might be able to help protect them,” a spokeswoman for the museum told the Landmark in an email.
No other details were available, said the spokeswoman, because the scientist who would be able to discuss the matter was “out doing fieldwork, so he is currently unavailable.”
Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai, senior vice president of animal health and welfare at the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo, said it’s not unusual for the remains of deceased zoo animals to end up at museums.
“Brookfield Zoo has longstanding relationships with our partner Chicago cultural institutions,” Chinnadurai said in an email. “We know that every animal can inspire conservation and support education and the advancement of knowledge, even after they have passed away. For that reason, the remains of most deceased animals from the zoo are sent to scientific institutions, such as the Field Museum for further study.”
JoJo, 42, spent a decade at Brookfield Zoo and sired three offspring during his time as the collection’s silverback. He was considered a geriatric gorilla and suffered cardiac arrest during surgery to treat an unspecified “acute illness,” according to the Chicago Zoological Society.
He previously had spent time at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and at the Louisville Zoo. In all, JoJo sired five offspring. The western lowland gorilla is considered a critically endangered species due to poaching, illegal pet trade and loss of habitat.
The Field Museum already has a western lowland gorilla on display. Bushman, who lived at Lincoln Park Zoo before his death at the age of 22 due to a heart condition, has been part of the Field’s collection since 1951 and is prominently displayed near the museum’s east entrance.
According to a piece on Bushman published on the Field Museum’s website, he was the first gorilla to live in Chicago and was such an attraction at Lincoln Park Zoo that “an estimated 100 million people came to see this great ape over the course of his life.”
Bushman’s story was part of his attraction. As a young gorilla, he was “adopted” by a group of American missionaries in Cameroon in 1928. In 1930, the missionaries sold him to an animal collector who offered the gorilla to Lincoln Park Zoo, where he was dubbed “Bushman” and became something of a local celebrity. When Bushman died on Jan. 1, 1951, according to Field Museum, “thousands of mourners brought flowers to his empty exhibit.”