THERE WERE celebrations last week in Belfast Zoo as a chimpanzee celebrated her 50th birthday, having been born there in 1972.
Lovely Lizzie celebrated her birthday by unwrapping her presents with the rest of her troop.
Born at Belfast Zoo in to parents Josie and Tommy, Lizzie shares her home with six other chimpanzees including her daughters Kim and Lucy, as well as granddaughters Phoebe and Pixie.
However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for Lizzie. Age-related health issues led to her having a stroke in her early 40s and then again in 2020. Lizzie astounded zookeepers and vets with her recovery and she has regained her full mobility.
In recognition of their dedicated work to Lizzie’s health, the ape team at Belfast Zoo were awarded with a bronze award in 2021 from The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) for Animal Behaviour and Welfare.
Senior Keeper, Lara Clarke commented:
"For her exceptionally old age, Lizzie is a very vigorous elderly lady with a big, healthy appetite. She is the dominant female of the troop and is respected and loved by both her chimpanzee companions as well as all of the keeping staff.
"She is very sociable with visitors and will often be seen at the viewing window, interacting with the public. We are happy every day that she is with us and hope to be able to celebrate many more birthdays with her."
Chimpanzees are an endangered species and face a very high risk on extinction in the wild. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, there are an estimated 340,000 chimpanzees walking the Earth today — that’s down from about 1 million chimpanzees in 1900.
Zoo Manager, Alyn Cairns, commented:
"Chimpanzees and all ape numbers are in serious decline due to destruction of their habitats, hunting and the illegal animal trade. Belfast Zoo is part of a collaborative breeding programme and we play an important role in international chimpanzee conservation. These fascinating animals face an uncertain future and without the support of conservation projects and zoos around the world, these animals could disappear forever.”