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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Belfast Zoo announce the sad news of the death of Delilah

Delilah the gorilla at Belfast zoo

Belfast Zoo have announced the sad news of the death of Delilah, one of the park's most well-known residents.

In a statement a spokesperson for the Zoo said:

"It is with deep regret that Belfast Zoo has to announce the death of Delilah, the oldest gorilla in the UK and one of the oldest in the world. At 60 years old, Delilah had actively taken on the role of ‘grandmother’ of the troop for the last decade. In September, the zoo had celebrated Delilah’s milestone 60th birthday with themed enrichment for the gorilla troop and the zoo was overwhelmed by the response from visitors and online."

Delilah was able to reach this remarkable age due to the care of the animal teams at Belfast Zoo. She was kept on a specialised diet and each morning received baby porridge with her medication to ease any aches and pains. Precious 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.

A pro-active approach ensured any issue was addressed quickly and treated by the veterinary team, who were in constant contact with the keepers.

Delilah the gorilla at Belfast zoo

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.

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.

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

Visitors to the zoo over the years have delighted in watching Delilah playing with the young gorillas and much to their surprise going up to the highest point of the climbing frame. 

Delilah arrived at Belfast in 1992 and was part of the first gorilla group here. Prior to her time at Belfast 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.

Delilah the Gorilla at Belfast zoo

Western Lowland Gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Belfast Zoo has been working hard for the last 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.

Delilah has been an integral part of this process, having arrived at Belfast Zoo over 30 years ago from Bristol Zoo. She was extremely fond of babies and played a key part in raising them. Gugas the male gorilla (who had a tragic start to life after he was poached and sold to a circus as a baby, and later sent to the ape nursery in Stuttgart Zoo and then onto Belfast Zoo) saw Delilah as a ‘mother figure’ and would often rely on her for guidance and support as he grew up and eventually became the Silverback of the family.

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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