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Photo: Rick Stevens.

Taronga Zoo keepers have been saddened by the peaceful passing of their oldest and much loved Chimpanzee ‘Fifi' today.

Fifi had celebrated her 60th birthday in May, an impressive milestone which made her one of the oldest Chimpanzees in the world.

Apart from experiencing the normal age-related health problems such as arthritis, Fifi had generally been fit in recent times. However she decided not to venture outdoors this morning and keepers provided fresh bedding and favourite food items. The rest of the Chimpanzee group spent time visiting her throughout the day.

Fifi died late this afternoon and her dedicated keepers allowed the other members of the close group of 18 to spend time with her. They noted that the group were very quiet and gentle.

The average life expectancy of Chimpanzees is about 40-45 years, although in zoos they can live far longer due to the expert veterinary and zoo keeper care they receive.

A preliminary investigation to confirm the cause of death will be undertaken tomorrow. 


Taronga's chimpanzee family is recognised internationally as one of the most significant in the world, with an extremely successful breeding record as well as having been one of the first zoos to house and exhibit chimpanzees as a group.

Fifi was known as a special character, always acting as the peacemaker.

In her prime, Fifi was one of the highest ranked females of the group and even in recent times took a senior role in the female hierarchy. She was very well respected despite her old age and frailty.

In her advancing years, she enjoyed a hot chamomile tea from her keepers first thing in the morning to start the day.

Chimpanzees are human's closest living relative, sharing over 98 % of our DNA. They are extremely sociable animals that live in groups and extended families varying in size from five to 40 chimps, ruled by a dominant or "alpha" male. Chimpanzees are listed as Endangered in the wild.

The Zoological Parks Board of NSW (ZPB) is heavily involved in primate conservation projects and it was one of the five founders of the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary for orphaned Chimpanzees in Uganda. The ZPB also supports in-situ conservation projects including for the endangered Silvery Gibbons in Java and is involved in international breeding programs for endangered primates including the Western Lowland Gorilla.

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