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Colo's birthday: First gorilla born in human care turns 60

It’s Colo’s birthday! The first gorilla ever born in captivity is turning 60. Colo, a resident of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, is our nation’s oldest. Colo’s birthday celebration was broadcast on Thursday in a live stream event.

Despite recent surgery to remove a malignant tumor, doctors report Colo is doing well. She is doing so well, in fact, that she has outlived the average life expectancy of captive gorillas by over 20 years.

Colo has a large family that includes 3 children, 16 grandchildren, 12 great- grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren. Colo’s endurance is a testament to the quality of healthcare and nutrition provided to zoo animals.

“Colo just epitomizes the advances that zoos have made, going all the way back to her birth at Columbus,” said Dr. Tom Meehan of Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo.

Colo is one of a growing number of elderly zoo animals throughout the country. Ozzie, the oldest known male gorilla, is 55 years old and lives in the Atlanta Zoo. Now that it is more common for these animals to live longer, veterinarians are learning more about how to care for them as they age.

“Geriatrics is probably one of our most common medical challenges that we face in a zoo situation,” said Dr. Keith Hinshaw of the Philadelphia Zoo. “So pretty much anything that you could imagine would happen with an older person is going to happen eventually with any animal.”

In some cases, human medicine is being adapted to treat issues such as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. A 45-year-old orangutan at the Toledo Zoo takes human heart medicines, pain medications, and Metamucil. Methods being used to treat various ailments include osteoarthritis, massage therapy, and acupuncture.

Credit: author Chrissy Sexton

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