Remembering Pattycake, the Bronx Zoo’s Beloved GorillaBy THE NEW YORK TIMES
ReutersShe was once celebrated as “the Shirley Temple of the animal world.” She was so popular that she became the subject of a custody battle between two competing zoos. When she suffered a broken arm, rapt New Yorkers followed every twist and turn of her convalescence.
Her name was Pattycake, and she was the first gorilla born in New York City. She died on Sunday at the Bronx Zoo at 40 years old.
Pattycake had been under medical care as a result of her age and was being treated for “chronic cardiac issues,” according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the zoo.
Neal Boenzi/The New York TimesPattycake was born on Sept. 3, 1972, at the Central Park Zoo at a time when gorillas born in captivity were still relatively rare. She was raised there by her parents, which was a bigger rarity for gorillas in captivity.
She was an instant star, drawing huge crowds charmed by her sweet antics. A naming contest in The Daily News attracted thousands of entries.
And then when she was 6 months old Pattycake broke her right arm, apparently a result of some overly exuberant play with her parents. The city held its breath, as Pattycake underwent an hourlong operation and then was whisked away to the Bronx Zoo to recuperate away from her parents. The two zoos then quarreled over which would keep the famous infant. It was finally decided that she should go back home to Central Park.
Three months later, Pattycake and her parents had a dramatic and tender reunion. In 1983, Pattycake returned to the Bronx Zoo, where she gave birth to 10 gorillas. Pattycake, as the Wildlife Conservation Society put it, was a New York City “institution” who provided a highlight of a trip to the zoo for countless children — and their parents.
If you have remembrances or stories about Pattycake. please share them in the comments box below.
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 1, 2013
An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of the gorilla who died at the Bronx Zoo. Her name was Pattycake, not Patty Cake.