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National Zoo Mourns Loss Of 51-Year-Old White-Cheeked Gibbon

Staff at the National Zoo are mourning the loss of Muneca, a 51-year-old white-cheeked gibbon who was euthanized on Friday.

Gibbon Ridge at the National Zoo is a little less lively this weekend after Muneca, a 51-year-old white-cheeked gibbon, was euthanized on Friday.

Muneca lived a long life for a gibbon, which typically live to be around 30 in the wild. The zoo says that at 51, Muneca was the oldest of her species in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan population.

White-cheeked gibbons are critically endangered and the population decreased by an estimated 80 percent throughout Muneca's lifetime because of loss of habitat.

Born in Cambodia around 1967, Muneca came to Washington, D.C., in 1999. As she made the National Zoo her home, Muneca also made a name for herself — especially among the primate keepers. The zoo says she was known for a "feisty" personality and love for attention.

"Muneca would often solicit grooming from keepers and frequently vocalized in protest when her caretakers would take their attention away from her," the zoo said.

White-cheeked gibbons tend to weigh between 15 and 20 pounds, but her small size didn't stop Muneca from having a huge impact that left many mourning her loss.

Staff had been monitoring Muneca for several years for ailments that included arthritis in her knees and elbows. But more recently, the zoo said Muneca "chose to rest more often than usual and her mobility and appetite had decreased."

Her health kept declining rapidly, which led the staff to make the decision that ending Muneca's life would be best.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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