Changing Planet

Third-oldest gorilla in U.S. celebrates 52nd birthday today (picture)

Vila, the third-oldest western lowland gorilla in the U.S., celebrated her 52nd birthday at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park today by unwrapping presents full of fruit, nuts and seeds, and eating a peanut-butter frosted banana ice cake topped with carrot “candles,” the zoo said in a caption sent to us with this photo.


Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park

“For the party, the gorilla enclosure at the Wild Animal Park was decorated with flowers, ginger leaves, ‘Happy Birthday’ signs stuck to rocks with peanut butter, and streamers in hues of pink, yellow, blue and orange. The entire six-member troop celebrated the milestone, enjoying treats and presents through the morning.

“Vila has some age-related issues so she gets senior vitamins and medicine for arthritis. But, she has no trouble getting around, something she proved today when she grabbed a present and took it into a cave to open in private,” the zoo said.

Born in Africa in 1957, Vila was hand-raised at the San Diego Zoo’s Children’s Zoo. “She has four grand-gorillas, four great-grand-gorillas and three great-great-grand-gorillas. They live at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park and at two other zoos in the U.S.,” the zoo added.

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media