Vila has long been a favorite of visitors and staff at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. She is one of the three oldest known gorillas living today, and we had a birthday party for her on Wednesday, October 28. We wrapped presents full of fruit, nuts, and seeds for the entire troop, and Vila enjoyed a peanut-butter frosted banana ice cake topped with carrot “candles.” The gorilla exhibit was decorated with flowers, ginger leaves, colorful streamers, and “Happy Birthday” signs stuck to rocks with peanut butter. See video
Although she is “up there” in age, Vila is in excellent health, has a good appetite, and normal behavior. She does have some age-related issues, so she does get senior vitamins and medicine for arthritis, which works well: she has no trouble getting around.
Living in Southern California helps as well, as the temperate climate is very easy on an aging gorilla, and even though she is missing a few teeth, corn on the cob is one of her favorite foods and she never misses a kernel!
When Vila goes on exhibit in the morning, we always say she looks like a powdered donut because bits of hay always stick to her! She likes to play with or cover herself in whatever she can find inside (hay, excelsior, paper towels) and it shows. For some reason, these items don’t stick to the other gorillas with quite the same grip!
Vila’s only child, Alvila, resides at the San Diego Zoo as do several of Vila’s grandchildren and her great-grandson, Frank (see post Frank the Gorilla: First Year). Frank the Gorilla: First Year She also has two great-great grandchildren at the Park, Jamani and Ajari. Vila has been a surrogate mom to many others and a mentor to many (including Winston, who needed some instruction on proper gorilla behavior), establishing herself as a very integral member of the Park’s gorilla troop.
We fully expect Vila to add years and years to the longevity record!
Peggy Sexton is a senior keeper at the Wild Animal Park.