Yesterday Colo, the first gorilla born in captivity, celebrated her 60th birthday at the Columbus Zoo. She is the oldest gorilla on record and has exceeded the typical life span of captive gorillas by two decades. The Zoo put on a party, and Colo got birthday cakes made of squash and beets that featured mashed potato dressing.
Colo has been a staple of the Columbus Zoo since before I was born, so she’s really been around for a long time. She was there when I went to the Columbus Zoo for the first time in the early ’70s, she was there when Kish and I took the boys to the zoo in the ’90s, and she is still there now, to impress another generation of kids with the gravity and power and majesty of gorillas.
The Zoo cites Colo, and her unusual longevity, as an example of what zoos can do to help animals live longer with better diets and medical care. She is one of a number of zoo animals that are exceeding their expected life spans.
I’m not a fan of zoos; I always feel sorry for the animals because they are in captivity rather than being free. Of course, the best zoos, like the Columbus Zoo, really focus on preservation and see great value in introducing kids to animals; they reason that making that connection can help the animals in the long run by making people care about whether a species is thriving in its natural habitat. Unfortunately, for every well-run zoo there are appalling stories about zoos where the animals are neglected and mistreated and left locked in cages.
So happy birthday to you, Colo. If you have to be in a zoo, I’m glad you’re in a zoo that cares.