POWELL, Ohio – Colo, the world’s first gorilla born in human care, not to mention the oldest gorilla living in a zoo, will celebrate her 54th birthday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Wednesday, December 22.
The public is invited to attend the festivities which begin at 11 a.m. at the indoor gorilla habitat located in the Zoo’s African Forest region. Keepers will be giving Colo a birthday cake in addition to special treats for her and her gorilla family.
“Colo holds a special place in all of our hearts”, said Columbus Zoo President and CEO Dale Schmidt. “In celebration of her birthday we give Colo her very own cake made of whole grain flour, fruits and spices that is frosted with nut butter. In addition to some other treats she also receives her favorite food, tomatoes.”
Colo has resided at the Columbus Zoo since her landmark birth on December 22, 1956. Weighing a mere three pounds and five ounces at birth, she became an instant celebrity. Her name came from a national “Name the Baby Gorilla” contest. The winning name, which is short for Columbus, Ohio, was chosen from over 7,500 entries.
Since her birth, Colo continues to be a local, national and worldwide celebrity. In the late 60’s and early 70’s Colo gave birth to three children and now her family tree includes 16 grandchildren, five great grandchildren and three great great grandchildren. While one daughter, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren reside at the Columbus Zoo many of Colo’s descendants can be found in zoos across the country.
Colo has led a very interesting and full life which has been documented in a new book by Nancy Roe Pimm and published by the Columbus Zoo called Colo’s Story – The Life of One Grand Gorilla. In addition to the birthday festivities Ms. Roe Pimm will also be on-hand to sign copies of the book which are available for purchase at the Zoo.
For apes—gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees, orangutans, gibbons and siamangs—the outlook in the wild is bleak. Given severe loss of habitat and population declines, it is estimated that some ape species will be extinct within 20 years if immediate action is not taken. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a platinum member of the newly formed Ape Taxon Advisory Group Conservation Initiative which includes 40 zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The initiative is funding eight field conservation projects including combating illegal wildlife trade in Central Africa, protecting and monitoring the gorilla population in Kahuzi Beiga National Park, and funding for sanctuaries that care for animals and also play a key role in law enforcement efforts and conservation education. The Columbus Zoo supports several other great ape projects including the Mbeli Bai Study of Western Lowland Gorillas based in the Republic of Congo, and the Cross River Gorilla Project in Cameroon and Nigeria. In 1991, the Columbus Zoo founded Partners in Conservation to conduct conservation and humanitarian programs benefiting both wildlife and people in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.) Over the past five years the Columbus Zoo and Partners in Conservation has distributed more than $4 million in conservation grants worldwide. More than $1 million has been devoted to gorilla conservation in their range countries since 1993.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year. General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+. Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free. The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.) For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit www.columbuszoo.org.