Gorilla "Colo" with veterinarian
Ohio Life

1956: Colo Born at the Columbus Zoo

The first gorilla ever born in captivity arrived three days before Christmas and was a topic of fascination from the moment of her birth. 

Dec. 22, 1956, was a momentous day not just for the Columbus Zoo, but also for the zoological world. For the first time in history, a baby gorilla was born in captivity. Colo, who received her name as a result of a contest sponsored by the Columbus Citizen newspaper, was a topic of fascination from the moment of her birth.

An Associated Press article published in the Dec. 24, 1956, edition of Dover’s The Daily Reporter noted that Ohio State University veterinary medical student Deane Thomas was the one who discovered Colo had made her entrance into the world.

“Earle F. Davis, zoo superintendent, credited Thomas with saving the small animal’s life,” the article detailed. “He cut the umbilical cord ... and then administered artificial respiration.”

The young gorilla was then hurried to an incubator, where she was visited by zoological professionals from across the nation. Davis explained that Colo’s mother, Christina, had been frightened by the birth. Both mother and father — an 11-year-old, 400-pound gorilla named The Baron — had lived at the Columbus Zoo since 1951.

Davis said in an article published in Marysville’s The Evening Journal Tribune on Dec. 26, 1956, that Colo was learning fast and enjoyed dumping over a bucket of water in her incubator placed there to keep the humidity just right. Colo did not have to wait long for her first television appearance. She was featured on “Wide, Wide, World” with Mrs. Howard F. Brown of Zanesville, who submitted the winning name in the naming contest. According to the Jan. 27, 1957, edition of Coshocton’s The Tribune, Brown was awarded $25 from the Columbus Citizen newspaper, $25 from zoo commission chairman J. Wallace Huntington and a $100 U.S. savings bond from actor Clark Gable.

Colo lived her entire life at the Columbus Zoo, which released a statement upon her death on Jan. 17, 2017. She had celebrated her 60th birthday less than one month before. At the time of her death, Colo was the oldest gorilla ever on record.

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