When Massa the gorilla died at age 49 in a tragic fire earlier this year at the zoo in Krefeld, Germany, he was one of the oldest gorillas in Europe. His offspring live in zoos across the continent.
The second thing Massa probably saw in his life was a city. In the markets of Central Africa, many merchants still care little about species protection. Conservationists say that some sell ivory and rhinoceros horn, either powdered or intact. One kilogram of horn can bring in several thousand euros when resold on the Asian black market. Some say that you can buy slaughtered gorillas there, and some live young animals are sold next to the meat of other members of their species. Little is known about the first years of Massa’s captivity There are few facts, only stories told to the zookeepers when Massa was delivered to them. An American living in Zaire supposedly bought Massa at a market in 1972 or 1973 for his amusement.
Massa slept on straw. Boards made from tropical wood covered the concrete walls. Each day was the same for Massa in Krefeld. The Great Ape House got unlocked at 8 a.m. Then came breakfast, which included vegetables and halved apples. At 12:30 p.m., he was given lunch, with cabbage and other vegetables. From 14 o'clock on, he got scattered feed, pellets and grains. At 5 p.m. came dinner - vegetables again.
Some animals in zoos display behavioral problems. Cats run in circles, polar bears and giraffes sway their heads back and forth for hours. Animal-welfare activists claim this behavior shows that the animals are suffering. Some zoos give the animals psychotropic drugs.
The building was closed entirely on the main day of the local annual carnival celebrations.
Zoo Director Dressen says Massa was never given psychotropic drugs. He was given willow branches to occupy himself, he says. Massa liked to bend and peel the branches.
Massa also had quirks.
He used to get mad when he saw people with dark skin, people wearing hats or children with makeup. He would flail his hands against the walls of the enclosure, tear out hair and bite his arms. The zookeepers put up a sign outside the Great Ape House saying that people wearing masks or face paint should not go in. The building was closed entirely on the main day of the local annual carnival celebrations.