Johannesburg's gorilla to be memorialized

July 6, 2004 at 5:20 PM
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, July 6 (UPI) -- A beloved gorilla that caught and beat up a thief who had jumped into his Johannesburg Zoo pen is getting a memorial garden.

Max the gorilla, who came to South Africa from Germany in 1972, died in May of complications related to old age, the Citizen reported Tuesday.

Zoo officials have decided to build a memorial garden across the pathway from the gorilla enclosure where Max lived.

In 1997 the 33-year-old primate became a symbol of South Africa's fight against rampant crime when he beat up fleeing thief Isaac Mofokeng who had jumped into his enclosure.

Since then Max grabbed headlines in South Africa and became a major draw at the zoo, as well as a national hero.

"After Max died the zoo was inundated with messages from the public who felt the loss and wanted to be involved in saying goodbye to him," said Sybilla Nagel, an artist involved in building the garden.

"We realized the public needed it," she added.

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