KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Zoo Knoxville announced the death of “Wanto,” its 44-year-old Western lowland gorilla.

Wanto died suddenly Wednesday evening, the Zoo said on Friday. He had been getting treatment for a sudden onset of gastrointestinal symptoms and had previously been diagnosed with cardiac disease. Zoo Knoxville said further tests were being performed to determine if cardiac arrest or stroke were the cause of death.

Wanto came to Knoxville from the Kansas City Zoo in 2013 on the recommendation of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan, a collaborative conservation effort of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in North America. He was born at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

“Wanto was beloved by his caretakers and our visitors alike,” Phil Colclough, director of animal care, conservation and education, said.  “He had a playful personality and expressed his fondness for his keepers by always greeting them with happy vocalizations when they arrived each day.  He was a noble ambassador who inspired millions to care about saving gorillas from extinction during his lifetime.”