London Zoo’s best-loved resident, Guy, a western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), 1946–1978. Guy was born in French Cameroon before being captured as a baby on behalf of Paris Zoo. He was eventually cared for by London Zoo.
Clutching a hot water bottle, he arrived on Guy Fawkes Night 1947, hence his name. Terrified by the riot of fireworks, he wouldn’t settle until a keeper slept beside him.
Guy became one of the most popular animals in the zoo’s history. Despite an occasional bad temper, he was known to carefully scoop up small birds that flew into his enclosure, peer at them, then let them go.
It was during a dental operation in 1978 that Guy suffered heart failure and died. He was brought to the Natural History Museum where head taxidermist Arthur Hayward spent nine months painstakingly preparing him for display.
Guy’s autopsy revealed his obesity. Autopsies of zoo animals whose life history is known are extremely valuable, helping us learn more about their species.
Guy was eventually moved into the research collections at the Museum. Mammal curator Richard Sabin remembers him from a school trip to London Zoo.
Banging on Guy’s window, Richard experienced Guy’s temper first-hand when the 240-kilogramme hulk launched towards him.
Modern conservation zoos no longer take animals captured to order from the wild.
The Zoological Society of London leads conservation programmes to protect gorillas and supports local communities in Africa to develop sustainable income from low-impact tourism.
Conservation programmes and captive breeding are essential for the survival of western lowland gorillas, which are now critically endangered.