Joanne the gorilla celebrates her third birthday at the Safari P - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Joanne the gorilla celebrates her third birthday at the Safari Park

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Joanne, a western lowland gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, celebrated her third birthday Wednesday along with members of her troop.

They entered a habitat packed with present boxes, butterfly cutouts, gourds filled with popcorn and other treats, and a grape-flavored ice cake with the number 3 on the top and ice pieces on the side that spelled out "Joanne."

The birthday girl explored the space, collecting lettuce, popcorn and other treats, while her father, Winston, claimed the cake as his own -- eating the "3" off the top and only leaving some ice formations behind, park officials said.

Joanne was born via a rare emergency cesarean-section because of complications during her mother's labor. Over the next 11 days, the young gorilla was treated for a collapsed lung and then a respiratory disease, which required round-the-clock care.

Park officials said she's healthy and active today, and is often seen wrestling, running and playing with her two favorite male troop mates, 5-year- old Monroe and 8-year-old Frank.

"She very adventurous -- she loves to play, climb and explore," said Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the mammal department at the park. "Given the difficult start she had in life, it's really rewarding to see that she's a happy, healthy, normal gorilla."

Gorillas are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

Threats include people hunting gorillas for bush meat, loss of habitat due to logging and mining, and disease, such as Ebola. The past 15 years have seen a dramatic decline in gorilla numbers, with almost half of the entire eastern gorilla species population believed to have been wiped out, park officials said.

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