Columbus Zoo Celebrates Gorilla’s Life in Death Announcement

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, that Colo, the first gorilla to be born in a zoo and the oldest gorilla in captivity, died in her sleep overnight at the age of 60.

Tom Staff, president and CEO of the Columbus, Ohio zoo said of Colo’s death:

“At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium our mantra is to touch the heart to teach the mind. 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.”

A banner at the front gate of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is available now through Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017 from 10 a.m. To 4 p.m. EST for anyone who wishes to leave messages or memorials for Colo. The female gorilla who had captured the hearts of many had celebrated her 60th birthday on December 22 with thousands of people in attendance and well-wishes coming in from around the globe. Any monetary contributions made in Colo’s name will be used toward the zoo’s gorilla conservation fund.

A postmortem examination of Colo’s body will be done to determine her cause of death, after which cremation will take place, with her ashes being buried at the Columbus Zoo. On Dec. 3, 2016, surgeons had removed a malignant mass from under her arm. At the time, the surgery was thought to be successful in excising any cancerous growth. The postmortem exam will determine if the cancer had spread and/or what else may have caused her death.

Colo, a western lowland gorilla, might never have been conceived had then-Zoo Director, Earl Davis’ orders to second-year veterinary student, Warren Thomas, not disobeyed the director’s orders to keep the male gorilla, Baron Macombo, and female gorilla, Millie Christina, apart. Little was known about the western lowland gorilla at that time and Davis feared the two adult gorillas would hurt one another if allowed to be together. Instead, they mated.

Thomas found baby Colo still in her amniotic sac shortly after her birth, saving her by giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Colo’s birth in captivity in 1956 made headlines the world over. The rest, as they say, is history, with Colo growing up to become the matriarch of the zoo’s successful gorilla family and living more than 20 years past her life expectancy.

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