Oldest Living Gorilla Celebrates 58th Birthday at Columbus Zoo

Zoo Guests, The Internet is Invited

POWELL, Ohio--()--Famous for being the first gorilla born in human care, recognized for being the oldest gorilla to have ever lived, and beloved for her stately demeanor, Colo is about to celebrate her 58th birthday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

“She is mentally sharp and very savvy. You can tell she’s getting older because she has some arthritis, but there’s no way that new visitors would think she is 58.”

Monday, Dec. 22 marks the anniversary of Colo’s landmark birth, which took place at the Columbus Zoo in 1956.

On that day, guests can watch the mighty matriarch unwrap presents of tomatoes and clementines; chow down on her Ohio-shaped, nutrient-rich birthday cake; and be serenaded by a chorus of Zoo-staff and fans.

For the second year in a row, visitors can join the festivities online as well as on grounds. A special birthday video will be aired at 1:30 p.m. EST, followed by a livestream broadcast of the celebration at 2 p.m. EST. Thousands of people tuned in last year, with cyber viewers from every populated continent. Guests can also join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook by using the #ColoGorilla tag.

“Every birthday Colo has is a momentous occasion,” said Tom Stalf, president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “Her historic birth and her amazing longevity have come to represent historic achievements in gorilla care and conservation. We are so pleased to be able to celebrate this day with people from around the globe.”

Since gaining fame for her historic birth, Colo has also been recognized for her extraordinarily long life. She is the oldest gorilla currently on record, making every birthday thereafter a milestone for gorilla conservation. (The median life expectancy for female gorillas living in zoos is about 37 years.)

Despite her advanced age, she’s still as active and alert as ever.

“Colo seems so much younger than animals that are a decade younger than she is,” said Audra Meinelt, assistant curator at the Congo Expedition. “She is mentally sharp and very savvy. You can tell she’s getting older because she has some arthritis, but there’s no way that new visitors would think she is 58.”

In addition to her place in zoological history, Colo’s personality continues to win people’s affection.

“To me, Colo has always been an impressive animal,” Meinelt said. “It’s not just her age that makes her that way, it’s the way she handles things and her personality. She’s very unique.”

Colo is a western lowland gorilla -- a critically endangered species threatened by poaching, habitat destruction and Ebola. While populations of wild gorillas continue to drop at an alarming rate, Colo’s genealogy offers some hope to the survival of the species. Her family tree includes three children, 16 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.

The Zoo is proud to support projects in Central Africa that promote conservation of Colo’s wild gorilla cousins. In the Republic of Congo, grants from the Zoo’s Conservation Fund support the Mbeli Bai Study of Western Lowland Gorillas and the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project. In Cameroon and Nigeria, Zoo grants contribute to the protection of the most endangered of the four gorilla subspecies: the Cross River gorilla. Through a long-term partnership with the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), the Zoo helps primate sanctuaries across Africa that rescue and rehabilitate great apes orphaned in the illegal bushmeat and pet trades.

In 1991, the Zoo founded Partners in Conservation (PIC), which benefits wildlife and conserves habitat in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The program helps protect mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas while encouraging indigenous people to save the environment by providing them with education, jobs and training opportunities.

For more information about the Zoo as well as Colo’s birthday celebration, please visit www.columbuszoo.org.


Colo’s 58th Birthday Celebration


    Monday, Dec. 22 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.


The Congo Expedition region at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, located at 4850 Powell Rd., Powell, Ohio 43065


The live broadcast will be aired at https://columbuszoo.org/colo/.


General admission and parking fees apply for guests on grounds. There is no additional charge to attend Colo’s party.


Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; annually contributing more than $2 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.


Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Jennifer Wilson
Director of Communications
Office: 614-645-3579
Cell: 740-398-8371

Release Summary

Colo, the oldest gorilla that ever lived, celebrates her 58th birthday Dec. 22 at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio. The zoo is livestreaming a broadcast of the celebration at 1:30 ET that day.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium