Colo, believed to be the world’s first gorilla born in a zoo, died in her sleep at the age of 60 on Tuesday, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, United States, announced. The Western lowland gorilla had exceeded the animal’s average lifespan by two decades, the statement said. Blood and tissue samples will be collected from her body for further study, while a postmortem will be conducted before her cremation.

Her birth on December 22, 1956, has been credited to a veterinary student, Warren Thomas. Zoo president Tom Stalf said Colo had touched the hearts of generations of people who came to see her and those who took care of her. “She was an ambassador for gorillas and inspired people to learn more about the critically endangered species and motivated them to protect gorillas in their native habitat,” Stalf said.

Audra Meinelt, assistant curator, said caring for Colo was the highlight of her career. “She was the coolest animal I’ve ever worked with,” she said. Colo’s ashes will be buried on the zoo’s premises.