Belfast Zoo keepers mourn passing of 'character' gorilla Delilah

Delilah was thought to be one of the world's oldest gorillas

Belfast Zoo has announced the death of Delilah, believed to be one of the oldest gorillas in the world.

During her 32 years at Belfast Zoo, Delilah was a character and was loved by keepers and visitors.

The Zoo said the popular 60-year-old had actively taken on the role of ‘grandmother’ of the troop for the last decade.

Delilah was able to reach this remarkable age, the Zoo said, due to the care of the animal teams at Belfast Zoo.

She was on a specialised diet and each morning received baby porridge with her medication to ease any aches and pains. One-on-one time with her vigilant keepers during her breakfast and evening meals allowed them to thoroughly check her for anything out of the ordinary.

The keeping team also insisted on maintaining Delilah’s activity levels in her later years through enrichment and interactions. This allowed Delilah to maintain her fitness and her role within her family group, which was crucial in ensuring she lived a long and happy life. In a statement, Belfast Zoo said: "However, after recovering from a recent chest infection, it was apparent that her quality of life had significantly deteriorated.

"Despite additional treatment and intense care from both the keeper and veterinary teams, the hard decision was made to put her to sleep to prevent gradual further decline. The team is deeply saddened by her loss." Delilah arrived at Belfast in 1992 from Bristol Zoo and was part of its first gorilla group.

Prior to her time at the zoo, Delilah charmed the nation on the hit show Animal Magic with Johnny Morris, drawing attention to the Western Lowland Gorilla and teaching the public about this remarkable species.

Western Lowland Gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

Belfast Zoo has been working for the past three decades as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which ensures the preservation of a genetically diverse and healthy population of the gorillas.

Curator Julie Mansell who had worked with her since her arrival said: “Delilah was a character who had been at Belfast Zoo for many years.

"She was never one to miss out on a group tussle and thoroughly enjoyed the company of the youngsters and was good at keeping them in line.

"Although she did have her more grumpy moments anyone who worked with her quickly grew very fond of her. Because of her advanced years we knew this day would come but it is still a difficult time for everyone who was involved with Delilah during her life at Belfast.”

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