The last remaining chimpanzee from the original 1980 troop and the matriarch of the habitat has died at age 46, North Carolina Zoo officials said.
Zoo officials said Maggie was one of the zoo's longest living residents and was the last original member of the group of chimpanzees to open the habitat in 1980. She was the alpha female for more than 35 years.
The zoo's Director of Animal Health Dr. JB Minter said Maggie's health had been slowly declining over the last week, showing signs of sepsis and an infection in the lining of the wall of her abdomen.
Officials said female chimpanzees typically live for 40 years. Maggie was 46 years old.
"Due to her advanced age, the severity of the disease and complications associated with the post-surgical care of this condition, the animal care and veterinary teams made the difficult decision to euthanize Maggie," Minter said.
Zoo officials said Maggie's body was presented to the rest of the chimpanzee troop so they could have the opportunity to "observe the death and mourn the loss."
One of her keepers of 14 years, Jennifer Campbell, described Maggie as a "strong force in the chimp troop" and as "one of a kind."
"She acted like she was too tough to care about the humans who cared for her, but one time she let her guard down and let me play with her toes," Campbell said. "Being allowed to tickle her toes until she laughed was one of the highlights of my career here because it made me feel so special. I always admired her bossiness and her unwillingness to take any nonsense from anybody."
Zoo Director Pat Simmons added the entire staff at the facility is grieving the loss and will miss her commanding presence.
"Our dedicated and experienced animal keeper and veterinary teams gave her the best care. Her commanding presence will be sorely missed by our staff and guests," Simmons said.
The zoo's troop now consists of 15 chimpanzees -- nine females and six males.
Officials said the zoo is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, which helps to monitor the animal's populations in zoos as well as support their health and well-being in the wild.
Chimpanzees are considered an endangered species in the wild due to habitat destruction in Central Africa.
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