The world’s oldest living male gorilla turns 52
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Beloved patriarch Ozzie was one of the original pioneers of The Ford African Rain Forest at Zoo Atlanta
His legacy includes a revolutionary veterinary advancement at the ripe old age of 48 and three generations of descendants over 25 years, and he’s still up for a birthday party. The world’s oldest living male gorilla, Ozzie, turns 52 today, and on Friday, April 26, Zoo Atlanta rolls out the red carpet for a beloved patriarch and pioneer.
Ozzie was already well into his golden years by 2009, when he became the first gorilla in the world ever to voluntarily participate in a blood pressure reading using an arm cuff. The accomplishment attracted national attention to the Great Ape Heart Project, a multi-institutional collaboration to identify, treat, and prevent cardiovascular disease in gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos. Hayley Murphy, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services, leads the project, which is headquartered at Zoo Atlanta.
“I’ve only known Ozzie for a small portion of his many years at Zoo Atlanta, but he continues to amaze me, not just as a representative of his species, but as an individual. He’s truly a living legacy in the Zoo’s history,” Murphy said. “His advanced age is an enduring testament to the commitment and devotion of the professionals whose superior care has helped to enrich his life.”
Born in the wild in Africa in approximately 1961, Ozzie was part of an original group of western lowland gorillas who arrived at Zoo Atlanta from Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center in the late 1980s. As a member of that group, he was one of the first individuals to explore the Zoo’s Ford African Rain Forest in 1988.
Over the course of his quarter-century in Atlanta, Ozzie sired 12 offspring, five of whom still reside at Zoo Atlanta. One of Ozzie’s sons, Jasiri, now lives at the Dewar Wildlife Trust in Morganton, Ga.
The silverback and his descendants, which also include nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, have inspired more than two generations of Atlantans to value and protect western lowland gorillas. Andi, the female infant born to Lulu on March 14, 2013, is his youngest great-grandchild. (Baby Andi has quite a lineage; she is also the granddaughter of the late Willie B.)
Ozzie is now the only male on a short list of the zoological community’s longest-lived gorillas; he is also one of the top 10 oldest members of his species in the world. The gorilla collection at Zoo Atlanta also includes two other special senior members: females Shamba, 53, and Choomba, 52.
Zoo Atlanta is home to North America’s largest collection of western lowland gorillas, a critically endangered species in need of urgent conservation attention. Wild populations may have declined by as much as 95 percent over the last two decades as a result of habitat loss and poaching.
Ozzie’s birthday festivities are scheduled for Friday, April 26, at 10 a.m. in Gorilla Habitat 2 in The Ford African Rain Forest. The celebration is free for Zoo Atlanta Members and children under 3; free with general admission.
Donations to Zoo Atlanta can help support conservation of gorillas in the wild. Learn more about global conservation work at Zoo Atlanta.