Some animals are blessed with good long lives, with lifespans almost rivaling those of humans. These animals can hold a special place in people’s hearts, as they see them over many decades.
Now, many people are mourning Delilah, one of the oldest gorillas in the world and the oldest in the UK, who recently died at the age of 60.
The Belfast Zoo announced today that Delilah, a western lowland gorilla, had passed on, just months after celebrating her 60th birthday in September.
In a press release, they said Delilah’s “quality of life had significantly deteriorated” after a recent chest infection, and they made the difficult decision to euthanize her to prevent further decline.
Delilah arrived at the Belfast Zoo in 1992, part of their first gorilla group. Over 32 years, she was a favorite of zoo visitors and a grandmother figure to the zoo’s gorilla troop.
“The team is deeply saddened by her loss,” the zoo’s statement reads. “During her 32 years at Belfast Zoo, Delilah was a character and was loved by keepers and visitors. Visitors to the zoo over the years have delighted in watching Delilah playing with the young gorillas and much to their surprise going up to the highest point of the climbing frame.”
They credit Delilah with helping to educate people about the western lowland gorilla, which is listed as a critically endangered species.
“Delilah was a character who had been at Belfast Zoo for many years,” recalled curator Julie Mansell. “She was never one to miss out on a group tussle and thoroughly enjoyed the company of the youngsters and was good at keeping them in line. Although she did have her more grumpy moments, anyone who worked with her quickly grew very fond of her. Because of her advanced years we knew this day would come but it is still a difficult time for everyone who was involved with Delilah during her life at Belfast.”
Before her time in Belfast, she resided at the Bristol Zoo, and rose to fame after she appeared on the television show Animal Magic with Johnny Morris.
Western lowland gorillas have a life expectancy of about 30-40 years in the wild, but can live a bit longer in captivity. Delilah, born in 1963, surpassed all expectations — which the zoo credits to the care she received from staff.
“She was kept on a specialised diet and each morning received baby porridge with her medication to ease any aches and pains,” the Belfast Zoo wrote, writing that caretakers kept a close eye on her health. “The keeping team also insisted on maintaining Delilah’s activity levels in her later years through enrichment and interactions. This allowed Delilah to maintain her fitness and her role within her family group, which was crucial in ensuring she lived a long and happy life.”
Delilah celebrated her milestone 60th birthday in September, and the zoo says they received an overwhelming response from fans of this beloved gorilla.
Rest in peace, Delilah! What a long life. You may be gone but you’ll always be remembered by the countless lives you touched during your time on earth.
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