London Zoo's gorilla Bobby dies

London Zoo's gorilla Bobby has died, it was announced today.

The "much-loved" male gorilla was found dead in his nest by his keepers early today.

In a statement, the zoo said everyone was "devastated" by the loss of the 25-year-old silverback.

Bongo Junior, who was known as Bobby, arrived at London Zoo from Bristol Zoo in 2003, and had lived in the zoo's flagship enclosure Gorilla Kingdom since it was opened last year.

The western lowland gorilla, whose species is critically endangered in the wild, was described as a "playful but gentle giant" who liked leeks and bananas and disliked spinach.

Ralph Armond, director general of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), said: "Staff, volunteers, members and the general public are devastated by the loss of ZSL London Zoo's gentle giant.

"Bobby was a much-loved member of the ZSL family and leaves behind his family of keepers and three female gorillas, Mjukuu, nine, Effie, 15, and Zaire, 34."

The zoo will be having a moment's remembrance for Bobby on Wednesday December 10 at 3pm, when visitors and staff can pay their respects to the gorilla by laying a wreath in the courtyard.

Gorilla Kingdom, a £5.3m enclosure which was opened at Easter 2007, was the most significant investment at the zoo for more than 40 years and allows visitors to get close to the western lowland gorillas.

The zoo has pledged to contribute £500,000 to conservation of gorillas in the wild from the development of the exhibit.

Western lowland gorillas are threatened with poaching and the spread of the Ebola virus in their west African homelands, as well as the destruction of their habitat.