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World's Oldest Known Zoo Gorilla Dies

Colo, a Western Gorilla, rests in her enclosure at the Columbus Zoo, Dec. 15, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. Colo, the very first born and oldest surviving gorilla in captivity.
World's Oldest Known Zoo Gorilla Dies
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The world’s oldest known zoo gorilla has died.

Colo was born in 1956 at the Columbus Zoo in the American state of Ohio. She was the first-ever gorilla to be born in captivity.

She died in her sleep on January 17, zoo officials say.

Colo lived more than 20 years beyond the average life expectancy for female gorillas in human care. Researchers studied her to better understand how to help animals live longer in zoos.

"Colo touched the hearts of generations of people," said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium officials. "She was an ambassador for gorillas and inspired people to learn more about the critically endangered species and motivated them to protect gorillas in their native habitat."

When she was born, most zookeepers believed gorillas born in captivity could not survive. Coco became a beloved animal across America. On her 60th birthday in December, hundreds of zoo visitors celebrated the event. They watched her open presents and eat a special cake, reportedly made with apples and tomatoes.

Colo on her 60th birthday
Colo on her 60th birthday

On Wednesday, thousands of people remembered Colo on social media.

The Columbus Zoo’s Facebook post about Colo’s passing has been shared more than 27,000 times. More than 3,000 people left comments and shared memories of visiting Colo at the zoo.

One woman posted a photo of Colo and her young daughter looking at each other while touching their hands to the glass window. The woman wrote that “Colo and my daughter shared the most wonderful and profound moment. We will never forget her.”

Another woman wrote about meeting Colo when the gorilla was still a baby. The woman, now 70 years old, wrote that Colo “made quite an impression on me and helped foster my life-long love of animals.”

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Words in This Story

captivity - n. the state of being kept in a place (such as a prison or a cage) and not being able to leave or be free

inspire - v. to make (someone) want to do something

motivate - v. to give (someone) a reason for doing something

habitat - n. the place or type of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows

foster - v. to help (something) grow or develop