Delilah, an Oregon Zoo chimpanzee who helped launch a decades-long friendship with renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, is half a century old today.
At 50, Delilah is one of the oldest animals at the zoo — but still not the oldest chimp. Jackson, 51, and Chloe, 54, are both older. All three have far surpassed the typical life expectancy for chimpanzees.
Wild chimps typically live around 33 years, and the median life expectancy in zoos is 41.7 years for female chimps, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The zoo participates in AZA’s Species Survival Plan for chimpanzees, which are nearing extinction in many of their range countries.
Delilah was born May 25, 1973, at the Oregon Zoo, then known as the Portland Zoological Gardens. Around that time, the zoo’s pioneering work with chimpanzees drew the attention of renowned conservationist Jane Goodall, who visited regularly, getting to know Delilah and the others.
That decades-long connection to Dr. Goodall led to a new era of care for chimpanzees and other primates and inspired the design of the zoo’s new primate area, which opened in 2020 and is home to eight chimps.
“During Delilah’s early years, Dr. Goodall helped the zoo find funding for a big outdoor area to house all the chimps,” said Kate Gilmore, who oversees the zoo’s primate area. “The Primate Forest habitat was inspired by those early developments, and we’re so happy that Delilah gets to enjoy it during her golden years.”
Delilah even gave care staff a chimp’s-eye look at the new space when she moved in. She quickly took charge of a GoPro keepers had placed inside the new outdoor yard as enrichment and chronicled much of the day’s events. To see video of the chimps exploring Primate Forest — including some of Delilah’s GoPro footage.