December 22 is a day that has a long list of historical significance. Some of these events include Ludwig van Beethoven premiering his Fifth Symphony at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna in 1808; the Lincoln Tunnel opening to traffic in New York City in 1937; and Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate re-opening in 1989 after 30 years, effectively ending the division of East and West Germany. However, it’s the milestone that happened 56 years ago that the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium will be celebrating on Saturday!
On December 22, 1956, Colo, a female western lowland gorilla, was born at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. Since becoming the first gorilla ever to be born in human care, she has continued her record-setting legacy.
Colo is currently the world’s oldest known gorilla. There are 342 gorillas in AZA-accredited zoos, and the median life expectancy for female western lowland gorillas in zoos is 37.4 years.
Colo is the mother of three offspring—Emmy, Oscar and Toni. Emmy was the first second generation gorilla born at a zoo. Colo’s son, Oscar, sired Mac and Mosuba in October 1983, which made Colo the grandmother of the first surviving twin gorillas born at a zoo. Colo’s daughter, Toni, gave birth to Cora, who was the first third generation gorilla born at a zoo. All in all, Colo is the mother of three, grandmother of 16, great-grandmother of eight and great-great grandmother of two.
In celebration of Colo’s 56th birthday, the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium will provide her with a specially-prepared cake and other presents that will likely include tomatoes (her favorite food) in her indoor habitat. Guests are also invited to join in on the fun by singing “Happy Birthday” to her.
There are currently 15 western lowland gorillas at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, including Colo, her daughter Toni, grandson Mac, granddaughter Cassie and great-granddaughter Dotty.
In the wild, habitat loss, deforestation and the illegal bushmeat trade are constant threats for this critically endangered species. The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium helps protect western lowland gorillas, supporting conservation efforts and distribution more than $1 million annually in conservation grants worldwide.