Female gorilla 'Julia' killed at Melbourne Zoo by young silverback male in show of 'unprecedented aggression'

The silverback male, known as Otana, has been separated from the group

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A female gorilla has died at Melbourne Zoo after she was attacked by a younger male silverback in what has been described as an “unprecedented” show of aggression.

The 33-year-old gorilla, called Julia, was attacked by Otana, a younger silverback male, and later died from her wounds.

A spokesperson for Zoos Victoria said in a statement that it is normal for Silverbacks to assert their dominance as a normal part of their behaviour, but added that “in this instance, the results of the aggression Otana displayed towards Julia on Friday were unexpected and unprecedented”.

Staff observed the silverback behaving aggressively towards Julia on Friday. That night Julia chose to remove herself from the group, spending part of the night sleeping in a heated cave outside.


Melbourne Zoo’s vets were unable to find any wounds on Julia but moved the gorilla to a veterinary hospital on Saturday morning, where she was found to have experienced “extensive trauma and significant complications” resulting from the aggression on Friday.

The vets attempted to stabilise Julia but the gorilla died at 3am on Sunday.

Otana, whose displays of aggression had been “intermittent but not severe” since joining the zoo in 2013, has been separated from the group.

A spokesperson for the zoo said: “Keepers are concentrating on helping them all get through this tragic event that will change the social structure of the group”.

Otana was born in the UK and joined the Melbourne zoo two years ago, where his introduction to the group had appeared to be working well. Julia arrived at the Melbourne zoo in 1997 from the Jersey Zoo.

“Staff throughout the Zoo are devastated and the Primate Keepers have been offered counselling to help them through this difficult time,” the spokesperson added.