SAN FRANCISCO -- One of the San Francisco Zoo's most beloved primates, known as the "matriarch" of the chimpanzees and a favorite of staff and visitors alike, died Sunday from heart disease related to breast cancer, zoo officials said.
Tallulah, an expressive-faced chimpanzee who was estimated to be in her mid- to late-50s, was a "funny, clever, confident trickster" who commanded respect from the zoo's other chimps, said Abbie Tuller, communications director for the San Francisco Zoo.
The playful primate, described as "exceptional" by her keepers, came to the zoo in 1967 after being raised privately as a pet, and was among the oldest chimpanzees in AZA-accredited zoos in the United States.
Tallulah enjoyed flipping through recycled magazines, and liked to "people-watch" her many visitors as much as they enjoyed viewing her. Zoo visitors came to know her as "the chimpanzee with the blanket," and she was often seen snuggling up with the leopard-print fleece, sometimes wearing it as a sarong.
Tallulah's advancing years and declining
Tallulah was beloved by the other three members of her chimpanzee troop, a tight-knit group that had been together since the 1960s, Tuller said. The other three members remain in good health at the popular San Francisco Zoo exhibit.