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Gorgeous George—the most handsome goral ever!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Editor's Note: Sadly, after a very full life, we said goodbye to George on May 20, 2021. He was 25 years old—more than 10 years older than the average life expectancy for his species—and he was the oldest goral in the entire population at accredited N. American zoos.
His longevity with such a high quality of life is a tribute to all his amazing Woodland Park Zoo caretakers over the years. 

At Woodland Park Zoo, our commitment to conservation starts with the 1,000 or so animals who call this place home. No matter what stage of life they’re in, they deserve the very best care—including our seniors, many of whom are still active and healthy well into their golden years.

George is a Chinese goral who lives his best retirement life at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: Tamlyn Sapp/Woodland Park Zoo

Among the oldest, relative to the life expectancy for his species, is one that you might not have ever seen or even heard of. Geng Rui, a.k.a. George, is a Chinese goral who is living his best retirement life in the yards behind the elk habitat of the Living Northwest Trail—mostly hidden from the public path.

What is a goral? Good question! Some say they look like a goat, while others say they look like an antelope—and they’re both a little bit right. A goral is part of a group of hoofed animals called “goat antelopes”—a term that’s related to their body shape which looks like something between a stocky goat and a long-legged antelope. Goat antelopes, such as mountain goats, serows and gorals are perfectly adapted to a life in the cold, rugged, rocky terrain of upper elevations.

Chinese gorals are native to the mountainous regions of southeastern Asia, including parts of Myanmar, China, India, Thailand and Vietnam. They’re listed as a Vulnerable species there, mostly due to factors such as hunting, poaching and habitat fragmentation. They have short cone-shaped horns that curve backwards, long, pointed ears and a coarse coat (perfect for protection from the cold) that ranges in color from grey to dark or reddish-brown.

George relaxing in one of his shelters. Photo: Karen McRea/Woodland Park Zoo

George was born at Woodland Park Zoo in 1996, where he originally lived with three other male family members named John, Paul and Ringo. Adult male gorals are often solitary animals and can be aggressive with each other, so it was no surprise when this “Fab Four” went in different directions as they matured, and George became a happy solo act.

The average life expectancy for a goral is 12 to 15 years, but George is no average goral! He is nearly 25 years old—he celebrates the quarter-century mark in May—so he has already lived 10 years beyond that upper range! Other than a little arthritis (which is normal for his age) he’s still going strong!

George is a bit shy and cautious with people, but he’s pretty comfortable around his regular animal keepers—who are positive he is the most handsome goral ever—and he even lets them walk up to him to give him food and treats. He is an herbivore, which means he has a vegetarian diet that includes the grasses, leaves and twigs in his yards—sort of like his own self-serve buffet. In addition to that, his keepers give him a variety of grains to munch on. They say his favorite is oats served up with some molasses. YUM!

George, you are ADORABLE! And oh, those ears! Photo: Karen McRea/Woodland Park Zoo

Being in retirement means you won’t see George from the public paths inside our grounds—but if you’re ever walking on the trail outside the zoo that wraps around the back of the elk yards, you might catch a glimpse of him. George has two huge yards of his very own back there, plus a third, narrower yard. All three of his spaces have shelters and lots of trees, and he also has access to an indoor area—although he seems to prefer being outdoors. His dedicated animal keepers tell us that when he’s not under the outside shelters, he loves to just sit in the grass when the weather is cool, and soak up the sunshine. It’s the perfect goral paradise for George to live out his golden years as a much-loved member of our zoo family—and we hope there will be many more years to come.


Anonymous said…
One of the things I love most about Woodland Park Zoo is the painstaking attention keepers and specialists give to the geriatric animals, including physical therapy, careful management of medications, accommodation to their behavioral whims, and comfortable enclosures off view when that is in the animal's best interest.
It might be interesting to have a place in the zoo, like a display board, with photos of the animals in your care that are handled off view for various reasons or in different seasons.
Pigeon said…
I'm glad he's being cared for so well! I miss seeing him and the takin, and was quite sad when they closed that area back when I was a kid. It's good to see an update on him
Sandy said…
I am very happy to read this! I've often wondered when I see stories about older animals passing on, if they're allowed to keep on going if they're healthy. Thank you for confirming your care of senior animals. And George is beautiful!