San Diego

Vila, One of the World's Oldest Gorillas, Dies at 60

The matriarch of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park gorilla troop was believed to have been born in the Congo in October 1957

One of the world's oldest and most beloved gorillas, Vila, died at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Thursday.

Vila was not alone. The Safari Park said she was surrounded by members of her family, her gorilla troop.

Villa was believed to be the second oldest gorilla in the world. She was the matriarch of five generations and recently celebrated her 60th birthday alongside her 1-year-old granddaughter Leslie. 

At her party in October, zookeepers explained how rare it was to see a gorilla reach six decades of life. 

This video shows Vila's 60th birthday celebration in October 2017.

“Sixty is a very big deal in the gorilla world because there are very few gorillas anywhere near that age,” Peggy Sexton, lead animal keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park said.

Gorillas typically live to 35 or 40 years old.

According to the Safari Park, Vila was believed to have been born in the Congo in October 1957. There were only two other known western lowland gorillas close in age to Vila, per the park: one at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas and another at the Berlin Zoo in Germany, both of whom are estimated to have been born in 1957, too.

After Vila arrived in the United States, she was hand-raised at the San Diego Zoo and later moved to the Safari Park. She lived a healthy life, serving as a surrogate mother for many western lowland gorillas over her lifetime.


Last year, Vila underwent a medical treatment for fluid retention that, if left untreated, could create life-threatening illnesses. Vila received a full diagnostic exam and recovered normally, the Safari Park said. 

Gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Gorilla numbers have declined dramatically over the past 15 years and San Diego Zoo Global continues its conservation efforts in collaboration with organizations across Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.

This 4.6-pound baby female gorilla was born through a rare emergency C-section at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on March 12, 2014.

Vila's troop includes an adult male silverback, four adult females, two young males, one young female and little Leslie. They can be seen daily at the Safari Park, typically eating leaves, stems, fruits, seeds, vegetables and leaves.

Contact Us