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Chimp Dies After 35 Years As Alpha Female In The North Carolina Zoo

Maggie, the 46-year-old matriarch of the chimpanzee troop at the North Carolina Zoo.
Courtesy of the North Carolina Zoo
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Maggie, the 46-year-old matriarch of the chimpanzee troop at the North Carolina Zoo has died.

The North Carolina Zoo says a 46-year-old chimpanzee has died after 35 years as the dominant female of her group.

Zoo officials said in a news release that the chimp named Maggie was humanely euthanized on Friday after health issues were discovered, including an infection and lung problems. Zookeepers noted she had already lived longer than most female chimpanzees, who typically live to around age 40.

"Maggie's health had been slowly declining over the past week," said the Zoo's Director of Animal Health Dr. Jb Minter.

Her body was presented to the rest of the chimpanzee troop so they could observe and mourn her death.

One of her long-time keepers, Jennifer Campbell, described Maggie as a strong force in the chimp troop. 

"She acted like she was too tough to care about the humans who cared for her, but one time she let her guard down and let me play with her toes," Campbell said. "Being allowed to tickle her toes until she laughed was one of the highlights of my career here because it made me feel so special," she added. 

Maggie was the last member of the original troop of chimps established at the zoo in 1980. She had come to North Carolina from a zoo in Virginia.

As the alpha female, Maggie built relationships and served as a leader to younger chimps.

The zoo says it now has 15 chimpanzees in its troop. Chimps are considered endangered in the wild.