Colo, First Gorilla to Be Born in a Zoo, Dies in Ohio at 60

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio zoo says the country's oldest known gorilla, and the first in the world to be born in a zoo, has died. Colo was 60.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said Tuesday that Colo died in her sleep, less than a month after her birthday.

Colo, who was the nation's oldest living gorilla, sits inside of her enclosure during her 60th birthday party at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Dec. 22, 2016.Ty Wright / AP

She surpassed the usual life expectancy of captive gorillas by two decades.

Zoo president Tom Stalf says Colo inspired people to learn about her species and to help protect gorillas in their native habitat.

Colo was born at the zoo on Dec. 22, 1956. She eventually became a mother of three, grandmother of 16, great-grandmother of 12 and great-great-grandmother of three.

Zoo officials had recently removed a malignant tumor from her but had said she was doing well.

The Columbus Zoo noted in an release for Colo that her birth "made headlines around the wworld including the TODAY show, the New York Times and Time and Life magazines."

"She was the coolest animal I've ever worked with and caring for her was the highlight of my career," said assistant curated Audra Meinelt, in the statement from the zoo. "It was not just about what she meant to 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."