Colo, the first gorilla born in a zoo, is celebrating her 57th birthday Sunday, Dec. 22, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
For the first time, the birthday party will be webcast live at 2 p.m. by visiting http://birthdays.columbuszoo.org/colo (pre-recorded interviews start at 1:30 p.m.). Zoo spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson told The Gazette visitors can see Colo in person, too, but views are limited.
Colo will receive presents of berries, clementines, and tomatoes. The cake will include peanut butter, applesauce, shredded carrots, honey, tomatoes, star fruit, macadamia nuts and Greek yogurt frosting with an edible screen printing of Colo’s face.
Colo knows when it’s her special day, Wilson said.
“She gets visibly excited for it, and she’s moved to a room next door, so she can see when the keepers are placing her presents and cake. Once they’re safely out, she comes in.”
Colo was born in 1956 and is not only the longest-lived gorilla in a zoo, but is also the oldest gorilla on record. Wilson said the median life expectancy for a female gorilla is 37.4 years and for 31.1 years for a male.
“She doesn’t have to worry about a lot of things that wild gorillas have to worry about,” Wilson said. Other than some arthritis, Colo is in good health, she said. She has some interaction with the zoo’s other gorillas, but tends to be solitary.
Colo, short for Columbus Ohio, has three children, 16 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, many of whom are in zoos across the country.
“The birth of Colo and her descendants have paved the way for gorillas, an endangered species, to thrive in human care,” said Tom Stalf, President and CEO of the Zoo, in a news release. “It’s hard to imagine what the world would be like today had she not been born.”
“She started the idea of breeding gorillas in zoos,” Wilson said of Colo. Now Columbus routinely has gorilla births and surrogate mothers to take care of babies abandoned by their birth mothers.
There are about 120,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild, their numbers declining due to disease, poaching and habitat destruction.