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Colum­bus Zoo announces the death of Colo, world’s old­est Zoo Gorilla

pub­lished 17 Jan­u­ary 2017 | mod­i­fied 18 Jan­u­ary 2017

Colo, world's oldest gorilla at Columbus ZooColo, the first gorilla born in a zoo and the matri­arch of the Colum­bus Zoo’s famous gorilla fam­ily died in her sleep overnight. Last Decem­ber, on the 22th to be exact, Colo cel­e­brated her his­toric 60th birth­day. She was the old­est gorilla on record and exceeded her nor­mal life expectancy by more than two decades.

At the Colum­bus Zoo and Aquar­ium our mantra is to touch the heart to teach the mind,” said Tom Stalf, pres­i­dent and CEO.

Colo touched the hearts of gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple who came to see her and those that cared for her over her long life­time. She was an ambas­sador for goril­las and inspired peo­ple to learn more about the crit­i­cally endan­gered species and moti­vated them to pro­tect goril­las in their native habitat.
(Tom Stalf, pres­i­dent and CEO of Colum­bus Zoo and Aquarium)

Colo’s birth at the Colum­bus Zoo on 22 Decem­ber 1956 made head­lines around the world. She was the first zoo-​born gorilla in an era when lit­tle was known about con­serv­ing the west­ern low­land gorilla.

Colo’s first keeper, a second-​year vet­eri­nary stu­dent named War­ren Thomas, was cred­ited for both Colo’s birth and her sur­vival. He defied orders from then-​Zoo Direc­tor Earl Davis to keep Colo’s par­ents, Baron Macombo and Mil­lie Christina, apart. Despite Direc­tor Davis’ con­cerns that his prized goril­las would hurt each other if kept together, Thomas allowed them to spend time together, which resulted in the birth of Colo. Thomas also found Colo, still in her amni­otic sac, shortly after birth and pro­vided mouth-​to-​mouth resus­ci­ta­tion to revive the life­less baby. Thomas had a long zoo career includ­ing 16 years as the direc­tor of the Los Ange­les Zoo.

Colo’s gorilla and ani­mal care fam­ily spent time with her body this morn­ing. Colo will be cre­mated and her ashes buried at an undis­closed loca­tion at the Colum­bus Zoo. Prior to cre­ma­tion, the Zoo will con­duct a com­plete post­mortem exam­i­na­tion to fur­ther define the cause of death. A malig­nant tumor was removed from under her arm on Dec. 3, 2016. At that time sur­geons felt they obtained clean, wide mar­gins when they removed the mass and until a necropsy (ani­mal autopsy) is per­formed it is unknown if the can­cer con­tributed to her death. Blood and tis­sue sam­ples will also be col­lected to ben­e­fit the world zoo community’s efforts to learn more about this endan­gered species. Results of the necropsy are expected in approx­i­mately four weeks.

More details on Colo’s his­tory, includ­ing her recent surgery to remove the grow­ing mass under her arm, are avail­able here.

(Source: Colum­bus Zoo and Aquar­ium press release, 17.01.2017)

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