Remembering Jomo

Posted March 12, 2022 by Ashley Ashcraft


Jomo, the beloved Western lowland silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, passed away yesterday. Since being diagnosed with a degenerative, incurable spinal cord condition in 2019, he has had mobility issues and some close calls. This is a huge loss to the Cincinnati Zoo and his care team.

Jomo has captured the hearts of countless people over the years, including my own. It has been a great honor that I have been able to spend 14 years with the best silverback around. From the first day I spent with him until the last, Jomo had taught me so much about gorillas but also life. He will forever inspire me as I remember him as a great leader for his family and a magnificent ambassador for his species.

Jomo was the epitome of a silverback and took his duties very seriously and with such charisma. Jomo lead his troop unwaveringly through his time at the Cincinnati Zoo. I was able to witness him become a biological dad for the 2nd and 3rd time of his life and a first-time adoptive dad. It was amazing to watch him interact with his kids and be the best dad for them. He was low-key obsessed with them and the sentiment was clearly exchanged. Jomo was often seen with an “all business” demeanor. But there was a softer side that he allowed those closest to him to see. His kids saw it every day and showed such great respect for him.

When I first started caring for Jomo I learned quickly that “This was Jomo’s World and we’re all just living in it.” And that was fine with all of his keepers 🙂 We shared the same respect for him that his kids shared. But, slowly and I mean slowly.. Jomo and I grew a bond that I will always cherish. I will miss the side-eyes that he gave as a subtle way to keep the kids in line.

I will miss his happy gorilla grumbles. I will miss all of our training sessions and witnessing how incredibly smart he was. You were such a good boy.

The last few years of his life as his health started to decline, I cherished our bond even more. And I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am for each gorilla caregiver, veterinarian/vet tech, as well as a slew of other experts that helped give him the best possible care. You are all my heroes. Thank you.

His legacy will live on through his kids, all of the things that he taught the gorillas, and the people that got to spend time with him. Myself included. Jomo, thanks for allowing me to be a part of your life. It has been my honor.

Nest easy handsome man. 🖤

Ashley Ashcraft
Team Lead – Primate Center
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden