[monkeywire] World's 'oldest' gorilla celebrates with cake

Josh Greenman josh.greenman at gmail.com
Fri May 9 22:35:24 EDT 2008


World's 'oldest' gorilla celebrates with cake

DALLAS (AP) -- A gorilla recognized as the world's oldest in captivity
celebrated her 55th birthday by munching down a four-layer frozen
fruit cake and banana leaf wrapped treats.

Jenny's caretakers at the Dallas Zoo say she's having a few joint
issues and her eyesight is not what it used to be but she still looks
good for an old ape.

"It's a special milestone for us," said Todd Bowsher, curator of the
zoo's Wilds of Africa exhibit. "It signifies that we've made great
strides in veterinary care, nutrition and animal husbandry."

The International Species Information System, which maintains records
on animals at 700 institutions around the world, said Jenny was the
oldest gorilla in its database.

"I think it's amazing," said Kristen Lukas, curator of conservation
and science at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio and the gorilla
species survival plan coordinator for the Association of Zoos and
Aquariums. "I think it's a testament to the good care that she's
received at the Dallas Zoo and also the resilience of gorillas in

Lukas said gorillas in the wild normally lived to age 30 or 35. Health
care and protection from predators had extended the lifespan in zoos.

Of the roughly 360 gorillas in North American zoos, only four were
over the age of 50. All of them are female. In addition to Jenny,
Lukas noted Trudy at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas, Colo at the
Columbus Zoo in Ohio and Helen at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky.

Jenny gave birth in 1965 to a female named Vicki, who was sent to
Alberta, Canada, at age five. Zoo officials do not know any more about
Vicki. They are not sure why Jenny has not conceived again.

Jenny's keepers describe her as very sweet though a little bossy.

"If she doesn't want to go out on a certain day, she doesn't," Bowsher
said. "But she really likes people."

When keepers set out Jenny's berry-topped frozen cake in a forested
clearing, she slowly approached. She scooped up the fruity treat with
her right hand, dug into the middle of it with her left then sat down
to savor the tasty yogurt-covered remains.

At one point she stood, turned her backside to the phalanx of
photographers and cameramen then lumbered off to enjoy her meal in
peace. She was not about to share with her primate peers.

Born in the wild of western central Africa in 1953, the exact date of
her birth is unknown. Jenny lived with a family on the Cape Verde
islands before the Dallas Zoo acquired her in 1957.

"I remember the day she arrived," said Nancy Hamon, 89, of Dallas,
whose family bought the gorilla for the zoo and continues to be among
its strongest supporters.

Jenny, a 213-pound Western lowland gorilla, is one of four gorillas at the zoo.

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