It is a very special day for the zookeeprs at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire today as one of their most popular star attractions reaches the milestone age of 50year-old.
Longleat has been the home Â its 32-stone chief male primate and extraordinary silverback gorilla named Nico since he was transferred to the wildlife Â safari park from a Swiss Zoo in 1966.
Celebrating his 50th birthday today not only makes Nico the oldest gorilla in Europe but the oldest surviving animal in the Wiltshire park and the second oldest male silverback gorilla in captivity.
Nico has drawn in crowds of thousands over the animal park’s history where he lives in celebrity status on a heated island where his lavish home is equipped with a television set.
Today as a special treat Nico was presented with a delicious banana styled birthday cake which much to his delight he devoured in no time.
Gorillas are the largest of all primate species and their DNA is very similar to that of humans (95-99%) they are also considered to be our next closest living relative after chimpanzees.
Male gorillas are called silverbacks and vary in height from 5ft 5″-5ft 9″ and can weigh between 140-200kg (310-440lb) but many have been known to weigh more in captivity and live longer than their average life-expectancy in the wild of 30-35-years.
Many gorillas share the same blood types and again similar to humans all have their own individual finger prints, these wonderful large primates are also highly intelligent creatures with several in captivity being taught sign language.
With approximately 2,500 Gorillas left living in the wild they are a critically endangered species facing an overwhelming threat of extinction.