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World's oldest gorilla celebrates 67th birthday in Berlin

April 12, 2024

A gorilla at the Berlin zoo is set to celebrate her 67th birthday on Saturday. Believed to be the oldest gorilla in the world, Fatou has been in the city longer than the Berlin Wall was.

Fatou, believed to be the oldest gorilla in the world, celebrating her 67th birthday with a basket of treats
Fatou, believed to be the oldest gorilla in the world, celebrating her 67th birthday with a basket of treatsImage: Paul Zinken/dpa/picture alliance

When Fatou first moved to Berlin in 1959, the Berlin Wall was still two years away from being built. When it fell in 1989, she was still there. And on Saturday, the gorilla will celebrate her 67th birthday.

According to the Berlin Zoo, where she lives, Fatou is the oldest gorilla in the world, although her precise age and birthday aren't known.

The zoo says she first arrived in Europe when a sailor tried to use her as currency in a pub in the French port city of Marseille, before eventually ending up in what was then West Berlin.

She was estimated to be about two years old and her birthday has since been celebrated on April 13.

Fatou received her first birthday present on Friday: a food basket including twigs, leaves, lettuce, grapes, bananas and a bit of melon. Just like older humans, she avoids too many sweet treats and increasingly sticks to soft food which she can chew without teeth.

Fatou celebrating her 65th birthday back in 2022
Fatou celebrating her 65th birthday back in 2022Image: Lisi Niesner/REUTERS

Fatou: the oldest gorilla in the world

In the wild, gorillas can live up to the age 35, and in confinement, with human care, up to 50. But Fatou is showing no signs of stopping.

She lives in her own gorilla pen separate from the main group. This, according to the zoo, would be too stressful for a lady of her advanced years.

Fatou is free to make contact with her fellow great apes whenever she wants, but prefers to enjoy her retirement in peace.

German vet Andre Schüle told the Associated Press that there is no gorilla older than Fatou in any other zoo "and we have to assume that there is no animal older than her in the wild," where animals do not live so long.

In 2021, Katjuscha, the oldest female polar bear in captivity in Europe, died at the age of 37at the zoo.

But Fatou only recently became the Berlin Zoo's oldest resident, following the death of Ingo the flamingo. Having lived at the zoo since 1955 and believed to be at least 75, the old bird didn't just stand on one leg, he was sadly on his last.

But he could have flown over the Berlin Wall at any time.

mf/wmr (AP, dpa)