ONE of the world's oldest silverback gorillas has died in his sleep aged 56.

Nico, a western lowland gorilla, died at Longleat in Warminster on Sunday.

Nico lived at Longleat for most of his life, having arrived in Wiltshire from Switzerland in the 1980s.

He stayed in a specially built house, complete with central heating and Sky television, on an island in the middle of a lake at the park.

Staff at the Safari Park announced the death of 'much-loved' Nico 'with deep regret and huge sadness' on social media last night.

A spokesman for the park said: "Nico, who was one of the oldest silverback gorillas in the world, passed away in his sleep on January 7.

"Everyone here has been truly saddened by the death of Nico.

"His main keeper has been working with Nico virtually on a daily basis since 1989 and has forged an extraordinarily close bond with him.

"It goes without saying that he is particularly devastated by the loss along with the rest of his keeping team who have cared for Nico over the years.

"We know that so many of you cared for Nico and have visited him over the years, so please join us in celebrating the life of such a magnificent creature."

More than 16,000 people have responded to the park's tribute, sharing photos and memories of Nico.