Birthday Bash

JoJo’s gorilla group enjoyed a special celebration on Friday, April 30 to mark some milestone birthdays at Regenstein Center for African Apes. To celebrate the silverback’s 30th “golden” birthday (as well as female troopmate Tabibu turning 18), keepers stocked the outdoor area with fresh leaves, lettuce and other green goodies.

The healthful treats were presented in a vibrant collection of paper mache presents, cupcakes and ice cream cones. Two three-tiered cardboard cakes were stuffed with snacks to mark the occasion: one announced, “Happy Birthday Jojo!” and the other extended birthday wishes to Tabibu. All the favors were created by the zoo’s Volunteer Enrichment Group, supporters who lend their time to make specialized enrichment for the zoo’s animals.

“Thirty is a nice milestone to celebrate,” says Curator of Primates Maureen Leahy. Because of their hefty sizes, silverback western lowland gorillas can experience cardiac issues as they age. To help safeguard his health, JoJo has been on a diet and exercise regimen as part of his daily conditioning program. Animal care staff use positive reinforcement to encourage a range of movements, which have helped the silverback to shed more than 60 pounds from his now 484-pound frame. (Lincoln Park Zoo veterinary staff, with support from Chicago cardiology specialists, also monitor his heart health with cardiac ultrasounds during bi-annual physicals.)

Even at his lighter size, JoJo was still late for his own party. The females and youngsters of the group beat him outside, getting first crack at the tasty treats. As a sizable crowd watched, female Bahati made the most of the festivities, gathering up both “cakes” to hoard the snacks inside.

JoJo eventually made his own appearance, slowly exploring the scene and feeding on the fresh food. It was a worthy celebration. “Zoo animals are living longer, healthier lives thanks to expert veterinary care,” says General Curator Megan Ross, Ph.D. “JoJo’s birthday highlights these successes.”