Year
1956
Month Day
December 22

First gorilla born in captivity

On December 22, 1956, a baby gorilla named Colo enters the world at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, becoming the first-ever gorilla born in captivity. Weighing in at approximately 4 pounds, Colo, a western lowland gorilla whose name was a combination of Columbus and Ohio, was the daughter of Millie and Mac, two gorillas captured in French Cameroon, Africa, who were brought to the Columbus Zoo in 1951. Before Colo’s birth, gorillas found at zoos were caught in the wild, often by brutal means. In order to capture a gorilla when it was young and therefore still small enough to handle, hunters frequently had to kill the gorilla’s parents and other family members.

Gorillas are peaceful, intelligent animals, native to Africa, who live in small groups led by one adult male, known as a silverback. There are three subspecies of gorilla: western lowland, eastern lowland and mountain. The subspecies are similar and the majority of gorillas in captivity are western lowland. Gorillas are vegetarians whose only natural enemy is the humans who hunt them. On average, a gorilla lives to 35 years in the wild and 50 years in captivity.

At the time Colo was born, captive gorillas often never learned parenting skills from their own parents in the wild, so the Columbus Zoo built her a nursery and she was reared by zookeepers. In the years since Colo’s arrival, zookeepers have developed habitats that simulate a gorilla’s natural environment and many captive-born gorillas are now raised by their mothers. In situations where this doesn’t work, zoos have created surrogacy programs, in which the infants are briefly cared for by humans and then handed over to other gorillas to raise.

Colo, who generated enormous public interest, went on to become a mother, grandmother, and in 1996, a great-grandmother to Timu, the first surviving infant gorilla conceived by artificial insemination. Timu gave birth to her first baby in 2003.

Today, there are approximately 750 gorillas in captivity around the world and an estimated 100,000 lowland gorillas (and far fewer mountain gorillas) remaining in the wild. Most zoos are active in captive breeding programs and have agreed not to buy gorillas born in the wild. Since Colo’s birth, 30 gorillas have been born at the Columbus Zoo alone. 

Colo died in 2017.

Tags
terms:
Animals

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony given world premiere in Vienna

If the initial reviews failed to recognize it as one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, one needs to understand the adverse conditions under which the work was first heard. The concert venue was freezing cold; it was more than two hours into a mammoth four-hour program ...read more

Dreyfus affair begins in France

French officer Alfred Dreyfus is convicted of treason by a military court-martial and sentenced to life in prison for his alleged crime of passing military secrets to the Germans. The Jewish artillery captain, convicted on flimsy evidence in a highly irregular trial, began his ...read more

Bernhard Goetz shoots four youths on the subway

On the New York City subway, Bernhard Goetz, a 37-year-old white male, shoots four young Black men after they surround him and ask for $5. After wounding three of the unarmed men, Goetz pointed his gun at 18-year-old Darrell Cabey, who was not wounded but cowering terrified in ...read more

Romanian government falls

The Romanian army defects to the cause of anti-communist demonstrators, and the government of Nicolae Ceausescu is overthrown. The end of 42 years of communist rule came three days after Ceausescu’s security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Timisoara. After the army’s ...read more

Russian-German peace talks begin at Brest-Litovsk

A week after the armistice was signed between Russia and Germany and nearly three weeks after a ceasefire was declared on the Eastern Front, representatives of the two countries begin peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk, near the Polish border in what is now the city of Brest, in ...read more

Soviet Union attacks Chinese policy toward Vietnam

The Soviet Union accuses China of backing U.S. policies in Vietnam, an accusation that illustrates the growing rift between the two communist superpowers. China, which had previously taken a hard line toward negotiations between Hanoi and Washington, softened its position by ...read more

Julie Nixon marries David Eisenhower

On December 22, 1968, Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower, both progeny of United States presidents, tie the knot in New York City. Julie Nixon was the daughter of Richard M. Nixon, who was president-elect at the time of the wedding. Her groom was the grandson of Dwight D. ...read more

Cattleman John Chisum dies in Arkansas

A central player in the violent Lincoln County War of 1878-81, the cattleman John Chisum dies at Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Born in Tennessee in 1824, Chisum moved with his family to Paris, Texas, when he was eleven years old. For several years he worked as construction ...read more

Fyodor Dostoevsky spared from execution

On December 22, 1849 writer Fyodor Dostoevsky is led before a firing squad and prepared for execution. He had been convicted and sentenced to death on November 16 for allegedly taking part in antigovernment activities. However, at the last moment he was reprieved and sent into ...read more

John Wayne Gacy confesses to dozens of murders

On December 22, 1978, John Wayne Gacy confesses to police to killing over two dozen boys and young men and burying their bodies under his suburban Chicago home. In March 1980, Gacy was convicted of 33 sex-related murders, committed between 1972 and 1978, and given the death ...read more

General Sherman presents President Lincoln with a Christmas gift

On December 22, 1864, Union General William T. Sherman presents the city of Savannah, Georgia, to President Abraham Lincoln. Sherman captured the city after his famous March to the Sea from Atlanta. Savannah had been one of the last major ports that remained open to the ...read more

Churchill and Roosevelt discuss war and peace

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on a unified Anglo-American war strategy and a future peace. Now that the United States was directly involved in both the Pacific and European ...read more