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22 December 2010

On this day in history: First gorilla born in captivity, 1956

In January 1951, a hunter called Bill Said brought three gorillas to Columbus Zoo in Ohio. Two of the apes, Millie Christina and Baron Macombo, stayed at the zoo as a mated pair. On 22nd December 1956, a female gorilla was born to them, the first gorilla to be born in captivity.

That morning, a young veterinary student and zoo-keeper called Warren Thomas noticed a change in Millie's usual behaviour, investigating further he found a baby gorilla still in the amniotic sac. He took the baby to the kitchen where broke open the sac to find the infant struggling to breathe. Thomas cleared the mucous from the baby's mouth and engaged in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Even though the zoo staff overcame the initial crisis the baby still needed round-the-clock attention, spending time in an incubator. While she spent her time growing in strength zoo and city administrators decided to hold a competition to find a name for the infant gorilla. Their initial prize of $50 was boosted by a $100 donation from the actor Clark Gable. Nineteen people submitted the winning entry, Colo, derived from Columbus, Ohio.

Colo is now the oldest captive gorilla in the World, becoming a great-great-grandmother in 2003.

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