Zoo’s Gorilla Is One of World’s Oldest, Celebrates 57th Birthday

She Takes the Cake: San Diego Zoo Safari Park Celebrates Gorilla
Tammy Spratt

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s gorilla matriarch is getting up in years, but you would never know from her youthful complexion.

Vila, a western lowland gorilla, celebrated her 57th birthday Tuesday morning, making her one of the oldest gorillas in the world.

Zoo staff honored the female of the hour with an ice cake made from and orange-flavored drink mix (sugar-free, of course). Vila was nice enough to share, allowing the seven other gorillas to scrape the cake with their fingers or just dive in and lick it, the safari park says.

With gift boxes and painted gourds galore, the gorilla troop indulged in treats scattered around the habitat including dozens of ice cupcakes – made from pureed sweet potatoes and raisins – and their favorite goodies like leafy greens, veggies, popcorn and the standard party snack, Chex Mix.

Believed to have been born around October 1957 in the Congo, Vila was taken to the San Diego Zoo to be hand-raised. She was moved to the safari park in 1975, where she has lived ever since.

Vila stands as quite the parental figure as well, serving as a surrogate mother to several gorillas. Her troop looks to her as the matriarch now.

Zoologists know of three other western lowland gorillas close to Vila’s age: one at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, born in December 1956; a second at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas, born June 1958; and a third at the Berlin Zoo in Germany, born May 1959.

The average lifespan of a western lowland gorilla is about 35 years in the wild, according to National Geographic.

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