Oldest Silverback Gorilla Turns 40 at Paignton Zoo

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The Paignton Zoo is celebrating the 40th birthday of its oldest silverback gorilla. Pertinax is the silverback’s name. However, the zoo affectionately refers to him as ‘Pert’. Pert is a Western lowland gorilla. Furthermore, he is the oldest silverback gorilla in the UK. According to the zoo, he arrived twenty five years ago. This was way back in April 1997. Pert was only fifteen years old at the time.

Silverback Gorilla
(Image Source: Paignton Zoo/Miriam Haas)

Now, this gorilla is celebrating his birthday along with the zoo staff. A fully mature male gorilla is a silverback gorilla. Around the age of twelve or thirteen, male gorillas become silverbacks. This is evident by grey or white fur along their backs and shoulders. On the other hand, gorillas that have grown up but are not fully mature to be silverbacks are called blackbacks instead.

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Silverback
(Image Source: Paignton Zoo/Miriam Haas)

Pert has been a father figure to many young gorillas in his troop. In fact, he brought up three different groups of male gorillas himself. As the silverback reached 40, he has since moved to his ‘retirement’ area. Of course, this is away from the energetic younger gorillas. Pert gets his own personal space where he interacts with the zoo staff. There, he develops a close bond with his keepers as they take great care of him.

Western lowland silverback gorilla
(Image Source: Paignton Zoo/Miriam Haas)

Gorillas are close relatives to humans. Moreover, they are the world’s largest primates. For animals, they are highly intelligent. They not only form complex social groups but they were observed to use tools for the very first time. This discovery was made in 2005. The gorillas were found to use sticks to test the depths of muddy water.

silverback gorilla
(Image Source: Paignton Zoo/Miriam Haas)

Silverback gorillas have nine times the strength of a strong adult male. This is because they have a much higher muscle ratio. Despite their unstoppable strength, silverback gorillas are surprisingly gentle. They are normally peaceful and won’t act aggressively unless there is a very clear threat. They will also become angry when they have to assert their dominance.

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