Colo the Gorilla, the oldest born in captivity, has died, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced Tuesday, saying that the matriarch of the Ohio zoo's gorilla family passed overnight.
Colo had her 60th birthday on Dec. 22 after she had been diagnosed with cancer, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The newspaper said it was not known yet if cancer was the cause of her death. The gorilla had surgery Dec. 3 to remove a malignant tumor, per the Dispatch.
"Colo touched the hearts of generations of people who came to see her and those that cared for her over her long lifetime," Tom Stalf, president and chief executive, said in a Columbus Zoo statement. "She was an ambassador for gorillas and inspired people to learn more about the critically endangered species and motivated them to protect gorillas in their native habitat."
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Colo will be cremated and her ashes will be buried at an undisclosed location at the zoo after a necropsy.
"She was the coolest animal I've ever worked with and caring for her was the highlight of my career," Columbus Zoo assistant curator Audra Meinelt said in a statement. "It was not just about what she meant for the gorilla community but for whom she was as a gorilla. I'm heartbroken but also grateful for the 19 years I had with Colo."
WBNS-TV reported that Colo's first keeper, Warren Thomas, was a second-year veterinary student when the gorilla was born in 1956. The television station stated that Thomas defied orders from then-zoo director Earl Davis to keep Colo's parents, Baron Macombo and Millie Christina, apart, leading to the mother's pregnancy.
Thomas, who went on to become director of the Los Angeles Zoo, found Colo still in her amniotic sac shortly after birth and provided mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive the lifeless baby, wrote WBNS-TV.
Many shared their condolences on Twitter.
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