split image of Fatou the oldest gorilla

Fatou, the world’s oldest living gorilla in captivity, recently celebrated her 67th birthday.

She was originally found in western Africa in 1959 by a sailor who brought her to France and used her as payment for his tab at a local tavern. Fatou was then acquired by French animal trader Madame Lefevre, who sold her to Berlin Zoo where she’s lived ever since.

Although her exact age is unknown, she was judged to already be at least two years old when she arrived at the zoo in May 1959.

Fatou eating lettuce

Fatou is a western lowland gorilla, a species with an average lifespan of 40-50 years in captivity.

For her birthday, zoo staff presented Fatou with a special basket of fruit and vegetables including lettuce, berries, watermelon and edible flowers.

Ordinarily, Fatou’s diet is comprised almost entirely of vegetables, as commercial fruit contains too much fructose.

“In general, we pay a lot of attention to good nutrition for our animals,” said zoo veterinarian Dr. André Schüle.

“And especially with older animals like Fatou, we always adjust meals accordingly. In her old age, Fatou needs very soft food that she can chew well even without teeth.”

Fatou eating fruit

Fatou’s favourite daily activities include foraging in her enclosure and climbing ropes.

She lives in her own compound as she prefers to keep her distance from the other gorillas. 

Although she’s separated from the group, she is still able to socialize with her neighbours when she wishes.

The adjoining enclosure houses silverback Sango (age 19) and females Mpenzi (38), Bibi (27), Djambala (22) and Tilla (3).

Fatou smiling

Fatou is an ambassador for her species, which is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The ongoing population decline of western lowland gorillas can be primarily attributed to the destruction of their natural habitat through deforestation and mining, as well as illegal hunting.

Dubbed "gardeners of the African rainforest", gorillas play a crucial role in the ecosystem by spreading seeds, which contributes to the preservation of biodiversity.

Fatou is not the only old-aged ape living in Germany to have celebrated a birthday in April; the oldest living orangutan in captivity, Bella, recently turned 64 years old.

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