The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium didn't go bananas celebrating the 53rd birthday of its gorilla matriarch on Tuesday.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium didn't go bananas celebrating the 53rd birthday of its gorilla matriarch on Tuesday.

Colo received a special cake and presents.

Born at the Columbus Zoo on Dec. 22, 1956, Colo has the distinction of being the first gorilla born in a zoo and is now the oldest gorilla living at a zoo.

Her birth made waves 53 years ago; the zoo held a national contest to name the baby and Colo, which is short for Columbus, Ohio, won.

On Tuesday, zookeepers gave her a cake prepared by the zoo's dietitians and a few gifts.

"We make types of carrot cakes or oatmeal cakes," said Audra Gibson, head keeper of the Africa exhibit. "It's always made to be tasty for a gorilla, but made with their health in mind."

For presents, the zookeepers fill boxes with different types of bedding and have food treats inside.

"We seal the box and can paint it or decorate it or wrap it in birthday paper so it looks like a present," Gibson said.

Colo gave birth to three gorillas in the late '60s and early '70s. Her descendants include 16 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

One daughter, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild still reside at the zoo.

Gibson, who has worked with Colo for 13 years, said the 53-year-old lowland gorilla always has been a good mother to the other gorillas.

"The best thing about Colo is she's always been an excellent mother or surrogate mother. She's really good with youngsters," she said. "The first baby she helped with was her grandson."

After 53 years, Colo seems to prefer solitude, Gibson said.

"Colo does not live in a group with the other gorillas. After years of being with other gorillas, she shows that she prefers to spend time by herself," Gibson said. "She gets visits from her daughter, Toni, and Mumbah, a silverback, also enjoys spending time with her. It is all based on Colo's choice."

At 53, Colo is considered "elderly," Gibson said, although the zoo is unsure about how long gorillas usually live in captivity. The ages of gorillas not born in zoos are estimated, she said, so the exact age of many older gorillas is unknown.

"Right now, she is the oldest gorilla living in a zoo," Gibson said. "With Colo being the first born in a zoo, that's the only exact age we know."

Despite her advanced age, Gibson said Colo is in great health with the exception of arthritis.

"Behaviorally she moves well," she said. "She shows no signs of major health problems."

Colo can be seen at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium 363 days a year. For more information, look online at