The oldest western lowland gorilla in captivity is one year older today. To celebrate, Fatou received an edible bouquet and a basket full of fruit and vegetables from her caretaker at the Berlin Zoo.
The presents with lots of berries – her favorite food – were all easy to chew because the female gorilla has no teeth. According to her regular caregiver, Fatou is very old. “In nature, gorillas live to be about 45 to 50 years old. Significantly older in zoos, but 66 years is really very special,” Ruben Gralki told German media.
He has been taking care of Fatou for 25 years. The secret behind her old age? “Especially vegetables. She used to eat the latter raw, but since about ten years we have to cook it first,” continued the caretaker. He is also the neighbor of the birthday boy Jet, because he has been living in a staff residence of the Zoo Berlin since 2011. From his apartment above the great ape house it only takes him five minutes to get to work.
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Fatou has been at the zoo since 1959. She was estimated to be two years old at the time. A French sailor is said to have brought her from Africa and handed her over to a bar in the port of Marseille to pay his outstanding bill. The landlady contacted the Zoo Berlin, which was already known for keeping monkeys. The zoo was willing to take in the gorilla female, after which the Frenchwoman flew to Berlin with her in the cabin.
In 1974 Fatou got her first and only offspring Dufte, a female who died in 2001. Since 2009, the gorilla mother has been separated from the rest of the group due to her age.
In 2019, the Guinness World Book of Records named Fatou the oldest living captive gorilla in the world. Before that, Trudy, a gorilla from 1956, held the title, but on July 24, 2019, she breathed her last at the zoo in Little Rock, Arkansas in the US at the age of 63.
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