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Zoo Celebrating Trudy’s Big Birthday

The Little Rock Zoo will break out the cake and treats Saturday, June 17, to celebrate the birthday of Trudy, the world’s oldest known gorilla in human care.

According to records, Trudy will be 61 this year, although an exact birthdate is unknown.

“In her long lifetime, Trudy has entertained and inspired generations of zoo visitors, teaching them about her critically endangered species,” Zoo Director Susan Altrui said. “She is a spunky old girl with an independent streak who is now most content napping, eating grapes, and lingering in her outside exhibit till sunset.”

Trudy was captured in 1957 in the wild in Africa as an infant, a practice that is now illegal. Her exact birthdate cannot be determined because she was wild caught and records from that period are spotty.

She came to the Little Rock Zoo in 1988 along with male gorilla Ollie as part of the grand opening of the great ape display. They were the first gorillas exhibited in Arkansas. Before coming to the Little Rock Zoo, she lived at the St. Louis and Buffalo zoos. She gave birth to just one offspring.

Trudy is short and round but has always held her own, according to her long-time keepers. She likes routine and isn’t shy when it comes to voicing her opinion.

“She is still very feisty and is not afraid to let you know what she thinks about things,” great apes keeper Ann Rademacher said, adding that Trudy has been around male groupings for most of her life and was always the one who determined which in the group would be boss.

Currently, Trudy is enjoying her retirement with 38-year-old Brutus in the smaller of two gorilla yards. While Trudy may move around a little slower now, she is still as sharp as a tack, Rademacher said. She is on medication for arthritis and her eyesight has declined over the years.

Trudy became the oldest known gorilla after the January passing of Colo at the Columbus Zoo. Colo was the first gorilla ever born in captivity. A gorilla in Germany named Fatou is believed to be around the same age as Trudy.

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, only about 125,000 Western lowland gorillas still exist in the wild. The species has experienced a dramatic population decline because of threats such as poaching, loss of habitat and disease.

A gorilla’s median lifespan in the wild is approximately 35 years. The median life expectancy of female gorillas in AZA-accredited zoos is 38 years. It is extremely rare for a gorilla to live into its 50s, much less reach 60.

“We are overjoyed to have Trudy with us as long as we have, nearly three decades,” Altrui said. “The care and companionship she has received is a testament to the dedication of our Zoo team and the community that continues to support this Zoo in its important conservation work.”

 

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