Chimpanzee Lizzie celebrates milestone birthday at Belfast Zoo

Lizzie was born at the zoo in 1972.
Lizzie was born at the zoo in 1972.

One of the oldest residents at Belfast Zoo has celebrated her 50th birthday.

Chimpanzee Lizzie was born at the zoo in 1972 to parents Josie and Tommy.

She currently shares her home with six other chimpanzees, including her daughters Kim and Lucy, as well as granddaughters Phoebe and Pixie.

Age-related health issues led to Lizzie having a stroke in her early 40s and then again in 2020.

However, she has since surprised zookeepers and vets with her recovery and has regained full mobility.

In recognition of their dedicated work to Lizzie’s health, the ape team at Belfast Zoo were presented 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 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 of extinction in the wild. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, there are currently an estimated 340,000 chimpanzees, down from about one million in 1900.

Lizzie with granddaughter Pixie (Alan Campbell/PA)

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 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.”

Lizzie celebrated her milestone birthday by unwrapping her presents with the rest of her troop.