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Jomo The Gorilla Celebrates The Big 3-0

Ann Thompson
Jomo, the silverback gorilla eats birthday treats, with his "cake," made of fruit, yogurt and sugar-free ice treats, in the background.

The Cincinnati Zoo's silverback gorilla didn't have any problem getting respect on his 30th birthday. His group, including three of his kids, know he is their leader and protector.

It's hard to say what Jomo thought of it all-- a banner, a cake, and various other treats including watermelon.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU

Some of the other smaller gorillas took a peek and a lick but quickly scattered when Jomo came out into the viewing area at Gorilla World.

"He's very intimidating but once you learn how to work with his personality, he's great," says primate keeper Grace Meloy. She describes him as tough on the exterior, but a gentle softie on the inside.

Jomo weighs about 400 pounds and is about twice as big as others in his group.

The party continued in the viewing area. Seven year old Hunter Hicks started singing Happy Birthday and was quick to say gorillas are his favorite animal because they fight.

Jomo will probably be slowing down. Even though 30 isn't considered old for gorillas under human care, Jomo was diagnosed in 2019 with a degenerative spinal condition that is incurable. He is undergoing physical therapy including laser treatments. Here is video of one of those sessions:

For now Jomo is doing well and the zoo says he's a wonderful father and leader of his group.

The morning excitement for Jomo included the cake-made of fruit, yogurt and sugar-free ice treats. He successfully defended it from the others.

Fairfield's Matt Bokeno was watching the fun. "He's got a couple of handfuls of cake there and he's enjoying it!"

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.