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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — It probably hasn’t set in yet for Fredrika, Zoo Miami’s lone gorilla, that her friend and sometimes nemesis is gone.

Josephine at Zoo Miami (Source: Zoo Miami)

Josephine at Zoo Miami (Source: Zoo Miami)

On Wednesday, the zoo’s matriarch gorilla, Josephine, was euthanized after suffering from several health issues. It was a bittersweet day for the zoo, the place she called home since 1983.

“I was one of the few people here when she arrived and I remember watching her and her family, watching her give birth to the first gorilla ever born here,” said Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill. “It really was a wonderful moment.”

Her death, while sad, is a reminder of a long life full of historic memories.

“Josephine was just short of her 50th birthday,” said Magill. “That’s a huge milestone for any gorilla, really. Would they live that long in the wild? So, in hindsight she had a long, wonderful life. She gave birth to the first gorilla ever born here. She became rather infamous for being Harambe‘s grandmother.”

A lot of the stories of Josephine we know, but one we don’t know is from 20 years ago…When Josephine probably saved a zoo keepers life.

“We had a keeper inside of an enclosure in the holding area and he had not locked one of the gates properly,” said Magill. “The big silverback came out and got him, was biting him, could’ve easily killed him. Josephine came out screaming on top of that silverback and got the silverback off of the keeper, and I don’t care what anyone says, and I think that keepers going to tell you the same thing, Josephine saved his life.”

Unfortunately, Josephine’s death means Fredrika will have to leave Zoo Miami, because Gorillas need to have social interaction for their health.

“It’s easier for Fredrika to be introduced to an established troop then to have an established troop come down here,” Magill explained.

We don’t know yet where Fredrika’s new home is but Zoo Miami says they will have gorillas again.

It’s a complicated network that puts the health and well-being of the animals first. When they do come back, it will be in the shadow of the beloved Josephine.

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