Turning 50 is a milestone in the life of any human, but for a male gorilla it's a very rare achievement.
Next Saturday, the Louisville Zoo is celebrating the 50th birthday of Timmy, the oldest male gorilla in North America. Timmy is also tied for the fourth-oldest gorilla in North America.
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It's tough to tell how long a male gorilla will live in the wild, possibly into his 30s, said Roby Elsner, the zoo's Gorilla Forest supervisor.
"Males tend to have heart problems more frequently; maybe it's from all the stress of overseeing females," he said. "For an animal in the wild, he has all the stress of fighting other males to protect the females."
The oldest male gorilla to ever live in North America died at age 54. The record for the oldest female gorilla in North America is 55.
Gorillas live a lot longer in zoos, said Kara Bussabarger, zoo spokeswoman. "They have a full-time housecleaning staff, full-time chefs, on-call doctors. In the wild, gorillas have to deal with other animals and they are killed for bush meat. There's a lot of competition."
For his birthday celebration, Timmy is getting a special treat: a custom-made ice sculpture in the shape of "50." Fruit will be embedded within the ice for him to enjoy.
The zoo's other gorillas will mark the day with piñatas in the shapes of fives and zeroes that are filled with fruits, peanuts and popcorn.
Gorilla keepers will be available throughout the day to answer questions from visitors.
Timmy, a western lowland gorilla, was born in Cameroon in 1959. He was most likely an infant when he was captured, Elsner said.
His exact birth date is not known, but gorillas captured in the wild are given a birth date of Jan. 1, Elsner said.
Timmy arrived in Louisville in 2004. He has also lived at the Memphis Zoo, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Bronx Zoo.
Timmy is a laid-back gorilla who prefers to be indoors and doesn't like grass, Elsner said.
He lives in a group with three female gorillas and is playful with them, he said. "He's a chick magnet."
Although Timmy is an active breeder, the three females he lives with are all on birth control, Elsner said.
Timmy isn't the only Louisville gorilla who is 50 or older.
Helen, 51, is the third-oldest gorilla in North America. The two gorillas who are older than her are 53.
The Louisville Zoo is a great place for older gorillas because of the way its Gorilla Forest is set up, Bussabarger said.
Keepers are with the gorillas all day and the gorillas are rotated through the various indoor and outdoor habitat areas so they get a change in environment with different climbing structures, Bussabarger said.