Barcelona bids farewell to its dying albino gorilla

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The Independent Online

Thousands of people living in Barcelona flocked to the city's zoo yesterday to say goodbye to Snowflake, the albino gorilla who is dying of skin cancer and old age.

"Our priority is to let him die with dignity, not subject him to treatment that would cause him pain and suffering," the zoo's president, Jordi Portabella, said, urging people to visit "while he still has all his faculties".

Keepers have tried to keep Copo de Nieve (Snowflake) - thought to be the world's only albino gorilla - out of the sun as much as possible throughout the 37 years he has lived in the zoo. He was given surgery when he developed cancer two years ago, but at the weekend keepers announced they would not prolong his life unnaturally.

He receives antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-depressants. "It would be unforgivable if we had to announce Copito's death before Barceloneses had been given the opportunity to say goodbye to the animal that has become a symbol of the city," a statement from the town hall said.

Snowflake was taken to Barcelona in 1966 from what is now Ecuatorial Guinea after a hunter found him orphaned, and sold him to a Spanish naturalist for the equivalent of about £60.

He produced six offspring, none of them albino, from three mates. He is said to be irascible and not very bright, although softening with age.