Colo celebrates 60th birthday at the Columbus Zoo

POWELL, OH (WCMH) — She is a mother of three, grandmother of 16, great-grandmother of 12 and great-great-grandmother of three. She recently had surgery to remove a malignant tumor, but doctors say she’s doing well.

She’s Colo, the nation’s oldest living gorilla, and she turned 60 on Thursday at the Columbus Zoo. Click here to watch more footage of her opening gifts.

The legendary lowland ape is ringing in her 60th birthday with another birthday girl. Laurel Benefield was born at Grant Medical Center on the same day as Colo.

“My mother always told me, she said, “Well, Colo made the front page but you made the vital statistic,’” said Laurel Benefield.

Benefield says she happy Colo is able to be see 60.

“I saw her here on my 40th birthday too. We came here for that, but I’ve always followed her,” said Benefield.

Colo’s birthday is extra special for another party guest. In 1956, Jordan Meyer’s great-grandmother won the contest to name the world-renowned ape.

“My grandparents usually come every year for Colo’s birthday, but my grandma is sick this year so I made it my job to come out and take pictures and give her the lowdown on what happens,” said Meyer.

Colo was the first gorilla in the world born in a zoo and has surpassed the usual life expectancy of captive gorillas by two decades. Her longevity is putting a spotlight on the medical care, nutrition and up-to-date therapeutic techniques that are helping lengthen zoo animals’ lives.

“When we talk about a 60 year old gorilla, she is actually beating that average age by over 20 years which is unheard of, so why is that happening it is because of the care she is getting here at the Columbus Zoo so we are happy to say Colo is very healthy,” said Tom Stalf, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo.

“The Columbus Zoo is an agent of conservation and when we have these iconic animals like Colo it makes our job a lot easier because you grow up with Colo. You learn about the stories. We’ve had people who have been here for years remembering her first birthday,” Stalf said.

“Colo just epitomizes the advances that zoos have made, going all the way back to her birth at Columbus,” said Dr. Tom Meehan, vice president for veterinary services at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo and veterinary adviser to a national gorilla species survival plan.

Earlier this month, Colo had a scare when a malignant tumor was removed from her arm. Colo, the first gorilla in the world born in a zoo and the matriarch of the Columbus Zoo’s famous gorilla family, underwent surgery to remove the mass on December 3.

A comprehensive medical examination did not indicate the tumor had spread and no additional treatment is planned.

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