The Emperor Valley Zoo is mourning the loss of Njugo, the Zoo’s only male chimpanzee. He was 37 years old. Njugo, which means ‘clown’ in Swahili, died in the company of his female companion Sudi (‘good girl’) who shared his enclosure for the past 35 years.
At two and a half, Njugo arrived with female chimps, Sudi and Kiji (‘little bug’, ‘peanut’) in 1975. For many years, however, Njugo and Sudi were the only surviving chimps at the zoo. Njugo was a crowd pleaser, infamous for marking people in uniform and pelting them with faeces. He was clearly the dominant male, hating opposition even from his female companion.
When he was much younger, Njugo escaped from his enclosure to the Botanical Gardens next door where he climbed a tree. This foray into the gardens did not last long, though, for he was soon recaptured. His favourite enrichment was the fig-trunk-treat where he was required to forage for goodies in holes dug out of the trunk. He especially loved home-cooked food.
There was also a sensitive side to this great chimp as he returned various tools to Keepers without trouble, and in his own way, vocalized ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.
In the wild, common chimpanzees live for an average of 40 to 50 years. Njugo will be remembered mostly for his temper tantrums and his liking for dolls.