Oldest gorilla in captivity dies in Ohio at 60 years old

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CLEVELAND (REUTERS) - The first gorilla born in captivity, who went on to become the oldest known member of her species, has died at the age of 60, officials at the Columbus, Ohio, zoo that served as her home said on Tuesday.

Colo, a Western lowland gorilla, was found dead on Tuesday morning in her enclosure, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said in a statement. She had been born at the same property on Dec 22, 1956, and five years passed before another gorilla was born in captivity in the United States, the zoo said.

The zoo celebrated her 60th birthday less than a month ago weeks after a malignant tumour was removed from under her arm on Dec 3. She was the oldest gorilla on record and exceeded her normal life expectancy by more than two decades, said Ms Patty Peters, a zoo spokesman.

There had been no sign that Colo was unwell as some 13,000 visited the zoo on Monday's Martin Luther King Jr holiday, MsPeters said in a phone interview. "There were lines of people. She interacted with guests all day," Ms Peters said.

Colo, whose name was a play on Columbus, was the mother of three, grandmother of 16, great grandmother of 12 and had three great-great offspring. Her oldest, Emmy, was the first second-generation gorilla born in a zoo and her grandchild, Cora, was the first third-generation gorilla born in captivity.

Gorillas, typically found in lowland and mountain tropical rainforests in central Africa, are the world's largest primates, the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans. Adult males reach up to about 200kg.

There are approximately 350 gorillas of all species in accredited zoos across the United States and an estimated 150,000 to 250,000 Western lowland gorillas left in the world, the zoo said in a statement. Gorillas are listed as endangered due to loss of habitat, poaching, and susceptibility to diseases.

Colo will be cremated and her ashes buried at an undisclosed location at the Columbus Zoo. Results of the necropsy to further define the cause of death are expected in approximately four weeks.