A young male gorilla killed an older female in an 'unprecedented' attack at Melbourne Zoo

Julia the gorilla at Melbourne Zoo. Photo: Supplied

A female gorilla at Melbourne Zoo has died after being attacked by a young male silverback over the weekend.

The 33-year-old female, known to keepers and visitors as Julia, was injured on Friday when staff monitoring the group observed the male gorilla displaying “an unexpected level of aggression”.

“Silverbacks assert their dominance as a normal part of behaviour, (but) in this instance, the results of the aggression Otana displayed towards Julia… were unexpected and unprecedented,” Melbourne Zoo spokesperson Judith Henke said.

Julia spent parts of Friday in one of the enclosure’s heated caves, away from the other gorillas and appeared unwell the following morning.

She was taken to the zoo’s veterinary hospital and treated for extensive trauma but died of complications relating to her injuries.

The young silverback, Otana, has since been separated from the other gorillas.

Henke told Business Insider, “it is very important that the family group remains an entity, we will not want to separate him on an ongoing basis.”

“The group is out this morning – I just went down to view them and it is all completely quiet and peaceful,” she said.

He arrived at Melbourne Zoo from the United Kingdom in late 2013. Julia had been at the zoo since 1997, transported from Jersey Zoo in the United States.

The clip below shows Julia playing happily in the gorilla enclosure in 2011:

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