In 1956, a tiny newborn gorilla was found on the floor of the gorilla habitat at the Columbus Zoo, still enclosed in the amniotic sac and unable to breathe. The resident veterinarian took the tiny primate, cut open the sac and got her breathing again. This gorilla was Colo, the first gorilla ever to be born in species preserving captivity. While Colo was rejected by her mother, she received 24-hour care by the caring human staff to help her to grow and thrive as a baby. Colo grew up to have three babies of her own who had babies of their own and so on. Colo passed away at the age of 60 in January 2017 with 16 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. The Zoo put together a beautiful tribute film about Colo’s wonderful life and the legacy she leaves behind. Per a Congo Expedition Keeper named Mandi, Colo loved birthday parties.
December 22 is a very special day. It was the day the first gorilla was born in a zoo in 1956. I have worked in the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Congo Expedition region since 2001 and have celebrated many birthdays with Colo. It was always a very exciting day with much anticipation. Over the years, the party grew bigger and bigger with lots of colorful paper chains and presents—not a lot of presents, but enough to open and then toss aside if nothing of interest was inside. Some of her favorite items were tomatoes, heads of iceberg lettuce and clementines that she would carefully and gently stand on to squish open. And, of course, a coconut—always a coconut. Colo lived to pass the milestone of celebrating her 60th birthday, which also earned her the distinction of being the oldest gorilla in human care. While we continue to miss her, today we honor Colo and her legacy that lives on through her daughter, grandkids and great grandkids.