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Staff and guests of Brookfield Zoo celebrated a milestone birthday on July 18, 2011, for Maggie, a Bornean orangutan who lives in the Asia section of Tropic World. Maggie turned 50 and ape-lovers of all ages came out to celebrate.

The day’s event featured a special Zoo Chat, orangutan-themed crafts and activities, a giant birthday card for guests to sign, and of course, singing a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Maggie. The zoo’s executive chef created the two cakes, which were made of 50 pounds of carrots and 10 pounds of sweet potatoes. In addition, she received wrapped packages that were filled with pine shavings and some of Maggie’s favorites—rice, oatmeal, and cracked corn.

Born at San Diego Zoo in 1961, Maggie is the fifth oldest Bornean orangutan currently living worldwide; the second oldest Bornean orangutan living in an accredited North American Zoo.

Prior to coming to Brookfield Zoo in 1995, she gave birth to four offspring at San Diego Zoo. Although she has never given birth to any offspring at Brookfield Zoo, she did serve as a surrogate mother to an infant male named Mukah. The young male arrived from another zoo after his mother wasn’t giving him the care he needed. When they were introduced to each other in 1996, Maggie began lactating even though she had no current offspring of her own at the time.

Maggie received some national attention in 2004 when she went through an extreme makeover after being diagnosed with a hypothyroid condition that had resulted in a serious weight problem, brittle hair, and dry skin. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which regulates the way the body uses energy. Once properly diagnosed Maggie became much more active, shed 90 pounds, and her healthy hair and skin returned.

Primate keepers describe Maggie as curious, intelligent and playful. She closely watches everything that is going on around her and she loves water play, especially in warm water.