When Colo was two years old she was introduced to a 19-month-old gorilla from Africa named Bongo, who would become her mate. They had three offspring, but Colo did not raise them herself.
In 2012, Colo broke the existing record and became the longest living gorilla at 56 years old.
Gorillas are vegetarians. They live quietly in the forests, and their only natural enemies are the poachers who hunt them.
Gorillas in the wild have an average lifespan of 30 to 40 years, but often live much shorter lives due to poaching and the Ebola virus. These unique animals are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
After Colo's birth, the Columbus Zoo continued to build its reputation as a leader in gorilla breeding, care, habitat and conservation.
History in the making
Throughout her lifetime, Colo has played an important role in the Columbus Zoo's history. She birthed the first second-generation gorilla born in captivity, Emmy, on February 1, 1968.
Colo is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. Her descendants include three children, 16 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren — thus far. For a decade, her grandsons held the record for being the only gorilla twins born in the western hemisphere. Colo's great-granddaughter Timu was the first surviving infant gorilla conceived by artificial insemination, and Timu delivered her first baby in 2003.
In the past 60 years, 32 gorillas in total have been born at the Columbus Zoo. Many captive-born gorillas are now raised by their mothers.
Conservation a necessity
Currently 765 gorillas live in zoos around the world. Fewer than 175,000 individuals can be found in the wild.
Colo celebrates her 58th birthday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Dec. 22, 2014.