Whipsnade Zoo Chimpanzee Celebrates a Half Century


The Animal Facts Editorial Team


June 5, 2023 7:48 pm


ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, The United Kingdom

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo have celebrated the 50th birthday of their oldest mammal, Koko the chimpanzee. Keepers marked the occasion on Sunday June 4th by providing a selection of her favourite foods including gem lettuces and cherry tomatoes before she spent some time in the sun with other members of the troop.

Whipsnade Zoo primate keeper Grant Timberlake said Koko still has the energy of a young chimpanzee, despite outliving the average chimp by more than a decade: “Koko might have just turned 50 but she’s still in brilliant health, thanks to the dedicated care of our zookeepers and veterinary team.  

“Particularly when she sees her favourite food, it’s like she’s 20 years young again – climbing and swinging as fast as she can through the trees to reach it,” Grant said.  

Koko has been well travelled through her life having been born at Dudley Zoo. She then moved to London Zoo, aged 9, before finally making the move to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo at the age of 33.

She joins a select few animals at the zoo who are in the 'golden club' having celebrated their 50th birthday. The oldest animal at the zoo is Gladys a 53 year old flamingo.

Over her years at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Koko has helped the survival of her species through participating in a research project on chimpanzees as Grant explained. ''Koko herself has voluntarily contributed to several important conservation project for her species, helping to improve and protect the health of chimpanzees around the world: our veterinary team work closely with the chimpanzees at Whipsnade Zoo, training them to use finger monitors so the team can gather ECG readings, as well as allowing vets to conduct ultrasound examinations on their hearts.”

Important data obtained through this program is shared through the International Primate Heart Project (IPHP), as well as the Great Ape Heart Project. This organisation works to understand the issue of cardiovascular disease in great ape through maintaining a central database on great ape health.

“Like a lot of humans when they get older, Koko has developed mild arthritis in her hands, but thanks to the care she receives, it hasn’t slowed her down at all,” Grant added. “Our vet team treat the inflammation with soothing, low level laser treatments – a simple but effective way to help her remain pain-free and fully mobile. We hope to celebrate many more birthdays with Koko at Whipsnade Zoo.” 

Oldest Animal at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Image: © ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

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More on the Chimpanzee!

Meet one of our closest living relatives in our fact file on the chimpanzee.

Our Favourite Chimpanzee Fact!

After about the age of 20 they can start to get grey hair and suffer from partial baldness just like humans.

Image: © ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

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