Belfast Zoo chimp who amazed vets turns 50

Belfast Zoo chimp who amazed vets turns 50

A chimpanzee who amazed vets with her recovery from two strokes has celebrated her 50th birthday at Belfast Zoo.

Lizzie tucked into presents of her favourite lettuce and ripe bananas alongside daughters Kim and Lucy, as well as granddaughters Phoebe and Pixie.

Speaking about the milestone, 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.”

Zoo manager Alyn Cairns added: “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.”

Born in Belfast in 1972 to parents Josie and Tommy, Lizzie moved to the £1m award-winning ape house when it was opened by primate expert Jane Goodall in 1991.


Lizzie opening her presents Credit: Alan Campbell
Lizzie opens her presents Credit: Alan Campbell

In recent years she has overcome a number of age-related health issues, including two strokes, the last of which in 2020 left her numb down one side of her body in 2020.

Alyn also told about the special bond he has with Lizzie, adding: “I get a great reaction when I go and spend time with her. She’s our most intelligent ape and I always make a point of going to say hello to her — she’s a very chilled-out chimp.”