Leeds nostalgia: Tragic story of Mok the gorilla

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Magnificent western lowland gorilla Mok is one of the most impressive specimens in Leeds City Museum’s Life on Earth gallery.

But the story of how the young primate came to be in Leeds is a tragic.

Captured in central Africa, Mok was originally put in a cage in the lobby of Parisian hotel before he was bought by London Zoo in 1932.

Living there alongside a female gorilla called Moina, Mok was housed in a purpose-built gorilla enclosure from 1933 and the pair became minor celebrities, often featuring prominently in national newspapers.

However, zoo-keeping and knowledge of exotic animals was not what it is today and Mok, a natural herbivore, was fed a diet of steak and chicken.

Sadly, aged just seven, Mok died of kidney disease on January 14 1958.

Press were quick to seize on the story of Mok’s death and the resulting coverage caught the eye of The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.

Coun Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “After being on display in Leeds for most of the last 80 years, Mok is a real part of the museum. His story is also a reminder of how far we have come in our efforts to care for and preserve animals.”

Curator of natural sciences Claire Makin added: “Although Mok’s story is sad, his remains can now inspire people to find out more about gorillas, some of our closest living relatives.”

Leeds City Museum open: Tues–Fri: 10am-5pm, Sat, Sun and bank holidays: 11am – 5pm.