Belfast Zoo's oldest chimpanzee Lizzie is celebrating her 50th birthday! Lizzie celebrated the big day by unwrapping presents with the rest of her troop.

Lizzie, one of Belfast Zoo’s oldest residents, was born at the zoo in 1972 to parents Josie and Tommy. She now shares her home with six other chimpanzees, including her daughters Kim and Lucy, as well as granddaughters Phoebe and Pixie.

The past decade has been rough on the aging chimp, who suffered from a stroke in her early 40s and another again in 2020 due to health-related issues. However, the zoo says Lizzie "astounded zookeepers and vets with her recovery" and has since regained full mobility.

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In recognition of their dedicated work to Lizzie’s health, the ape team at Belfast Zoo was awarded with a bronze award in 2021 from The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) for Animal Behavior and Welfare.

Senior Keeper, Lara Clarke said: "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. 

Zoo Manager, Alyn Cairns, said, “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 program 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.”