This Gorilla's Birthday Makes Her The Oldest In The World

In April of 2018, Fatou, a female gorilla at the Berlin Zoo in Germany celebrated a birthday. But it wasn’t just any birthday. Fatou turned 61. That makes her the oldest known female gorilla on Earth, a title she shares with Trudy of the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas.

About Fatou

Zookeepers aren’t sure of Fatou’s exact date of birth. But they do know that she was born in West Africa, and they’re pretty sure it was in 1957. Fatou came to Berlin in 1959, after a sailor used her to pay his bar tab in the French port city of Marseille.

Photographer has released the image for reuse for any purpose. Photo by Philine Hachmeister, via Wikimedia Commons.

Fatou has set a lot of records and has a lot of “firsts” under her belt. Not only is she the oldest known female gorilla, but the oldest of all gorillas currently on record. Also, she and Trudy are the oldest gorillas ever confirmed. Not only that but Fatou’s daughter, Dufte, born in 1974, was the first gorilla to be raised in Berlin.

How Long do Gorillas Live?

In the wild, a typical gorilla may live between 35 and 40 years. Some gorillas have lived up to 50 years in captivity. So 61 years is a real accomplishment! Fatou celebrated her birthday with a rice cake decorated with strawberries. As you can tell from the video below, she thought the strawberries were the best part.

Other Long-Lived Animals

Humans are by far the longest-lived hominids. The oldest human ever recorded, Jean Calment of France, lived to age 122. Other hominids, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans, seem to top out around 60. But plenty of animals live even longer. Red Sea Urchins, for example, can live for two hundred years. One famous koi fish, Hanako, lived until age 226!  And the bowhead whale has an average lifespan of two hundred years. This means that plenty of them live longer than that.

Gorillas Need Your Help

Image is CC BY 2.0, by Marieke IJsendoorn-Kuijpers, via Flickr.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists all gorilla subspecies as critically endangered. This means that they face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. One of the threats wild gorillas face is habitat destruction. As the human population expands, it crowds gorillas out. And as humans destroy the forests where gorillas live, to plant more lucrative crops, gorillas increasingly have nowhere to go. If that’s not enough, even though hunting gorillas is illegal, bushmeat poachers are still making sure that gorilla remains on the menu. And disease also takes a toll. One recent outbreak of Ebola in Central Africa may have killed up to 5,000 gorillas. And, considering shrinking populations, that’s a lot.

Image is CC0, by Cairomoon, via Pixabay.

How can you help? The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in California has some suggestions. First, take a trip to visit gorillas in DR Congo, Uganda, or Rwanda. Gorilla tourism brings money to these areas, and this means that preserving the gorilla population is important to the people living there. If you can’t make such a long, expensive trip, consider donating to the World Wildlife Federation, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, or other organizations working to save endangered species. Finally, don’t buy souvenirs or other products made with wild animal parts. Even if the products don’t contain gorilla parts, gorillas are sometimes trapped in the snares and traps set for other animals.

Fatou has had a long, colorful, and hopefully happy life as one of the stars of the Berlin Zoo. We wish her a happy birthday and many more!

Featured Image is CC BY-SA 2.0, by Mad Ball, via Flickr.

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