Britain's oldest gorilla Delilah dies at 60 years old

Shortly after celebrating 60 long years of life, the UK's oldest Gorilla took her final breath at Belfast Zoo.

Delilah, who arrived in the zoo's first ever troop of gorilla's in 1992, was among the oldest in the entire world before she suffered an infection and was sadly put to sleep.

The zoo, where Delilah had lived for over 32 years, revealed the gorilla had adopted the role of 'grandmother' within her group for a decade.

According to the attraction, Delilah's health had dramatically declined after she had contracted a chest infection.

A Belfast spokesperson said: 'The team is deeply saddened by her loss. During her 32 years at Belfast Zoo, Delilah was a character and was loved by keepers and visitors.

'Visitors to the zoo over the years have delighted in watching Delilah playing with the young gorillas and much to their surprise going up to the highest point of the climbing frame.'

The 60-year-old gorilla had previously captured the hearts of the nation, starring on the hit show Animal Magic with Johnny Morris.

Belfast Zoo added that her appearance in the show was responsible for 'drawing attention to the Western Lowland Gorilla and teaching the public about this remarkable species.'

The average life expectancy of a gorilla is anywhere between 35 and 40 years, with the world's oldest gorilla - Fatou - being 87-years-old.

In the final four months of her life, Delilah as on a specialised diet of medication and baby porridge.

This invaluable one on one time with eagle-eyed zoo keepers during her meal times, permitted staff to rigorously inspect if there was anything wrong, BelfastLive reports.

The Belfast team had continued to take 'a pro-active approach' to the animal's health, ensuring her activity levels remained high so that she could maintain her matriarchal role in the troop and live a joyous and fulfilled life.

Western Lowland Gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Belfast Zoo have partaken in the European Endagered Species Programme for the last 30 years, which also includes helping preserve a genetically varied and healthy gorilla population.

Zoo curator Julie Mansell, who has been by Delilah's side since she arrived, said: 'Delilah was a character who had been at Belfast Zoo for many years.

'She was never one to miss out on a group tussle and thoroughly enjoyed the company of the youngsters and was good at keeping them in line.

'Although she did have her more grumpy moments anyone who worked with her quickly grew very fond of her.

'Because of her advanced years we knew this day would come but it is still a difficult time for everyone who was involved with Delilah during her life at Belfast.'