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Happy Birthday! Oregon Zoo chimp who used to hang with Jane Goodall turns 50

By John Ross Ferrara,


PORTLAND, Ore. ( KOIN ) — The Oregon Zoo is celebrating Delilah the chimpanzee’s 50th birthday.

Born at the Oregon Zoo on May 25, 1973, Delilah is now one of three chimps living at the zoo to reach the half-century mark. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, chimps have an average lifespan of 33 years in the wild and nearly 42 years in zoos (for female chimps).

“At 50, Delilah is one of the oldest animals at the zoo, but still not the oldest chimp,” the Oregon Zoo announced. “Jackson, 51, and Chloe, 54, are both older. All three have far surpassed the typical life expectancy for chimpanzees.”

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Around the time of Delilah’s birth, the Oregon Zoo, then known as the Portland Zoological Gardens, drew attention from renowned primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall for its pioneering work with chimpanzees. During this time, Goodall visited with Delilah and other local chimps regularly.

The zoo’s decades-long connection with Goodall helped to raise funds for a larger chimpanzee space during Delilah’s younger years. Oregon Zoo primate exhibit manager Kate Gilmore said that Goodall’s work also helped to inspire the zoo’s newest Primate Forest exhibit, which was completed in 2020 and houses eight chimps.

“During Delilah’s early years, Dr. Goodall helped the zoo find funding for a big outdoor area to house all the chimps,” Gilmore said. “The Primate Forest habitat was inspired by those early developments, and we’re so happy that Delilah gets to enjoy it during her golden years.”

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