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WISH `GORGEOUS’ APE A HAPPY 45TH TODAY

SHARE WISH `GORGEOUS’ APE A HAPPY 45TH TODAY

Gorgeous, the oldest gorilla in captivity, celebrates her 45th birthday today during a party at Hogle Zoo. The public is invited.

A "birthday cake" made of carrots, applesauce and yogurt will be presented at 1 p.m. in the Great Apes Building.Visitors are encouraged to bring birthday presents of unsweetened cereal, unsalted nuts, raisins, powdered milk or canned fruit juices. Because of the danger of pesticides, no raw fruits or vegetables will be accepted, said zoo marketing director Andrew Wallace.

All food donations will be checked carefully to ensure they are not harmful to the gorilla, Wallace said, when asked if zoo officials were concerned about the potential for injury to the animal.

Gorgeous was born in the wilds of Cameroon, Africa, and came to Hogle Zoo from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colo., in September 1986. She is not as agile as she was years ago, but she is in "relatively good shape - as good as a 45-year-old animal can be. She's like an 85-year-old person with all kinds of potential geriatric problems. But at this point she seems to be functioning probably better than before her eye surgery," said Dr. Ross Anderson, zoo veterinarian.

Blind since her arrival at the zoo, cataract surgery was successfully performed on Gorgeous in 1990. An intraocular lens implant restored the sight in her right eye to 20/20 vision, but, unfortunately, a detached retina in her left eye could not be repaired.

"Gorgeous prefers to stay alone. She does not like the other gorillas at the zoo," Anderson said.

Two male gorillas, Dan II and Tino, are housed at Hogle Zoo, and Elaine, a female gorilla, has been on breeding loan to the Toledo (Ohio) Zoo since April 29, 1991, said Marj Jones, a keeper in the Great Apes Building.

"We are hoping she will conceive there," Jones said.

Dan II, who will be 25 years old in September, was named after the late Dan Valentine, Salt Lake Tribune columnist, and Elaine, is a namesake for Valentine's wife. Tino is approximately 18 years old, and Elaine, 27, Wallace said.

Because Gorgeous doesn't relate to the other gorillas, zoo keepers wanted to provide a companion for her. So last year Gorgeous was given a domestic house cat, N'Gina. Since then Gorgeous has developed maternal instincts with the black cat, usually spending time during the morning grooming and caring for her new friend, Wallace said.

Jones said the gorilla's most prized possession is a metal pan, which she quite often wears on her head. The pan could become a party hat on Saturday.

"When she was first introduced to the cat, we knew we had a bond. She put the cat in the pan," Jones said.

During a Deseret News visit to zoo, Gorgeous stared inquisitively at visitors through a glass barrier. She sometimes turned her back on the spectators and repeatedly put her hands in her ears, a habit she picked up several years ago when she had ear mites. The mites haven't been a problem to the gorilla for several years, Wallace said.

"Gorgeous likes to watch little people," Jones said.

And two Ogden children, Jordan Hendrix, 6, and Jayci Hendrix, 4, who visited the zoo Thursday with their father, Richard, and a sister, Janika, 13, seemed to enjoy watching Gorgeous.

Gorgeous is Jordan's "favorite" animal of all the animals at the zoo.