First gorilla born in captivity On this day in 1956, a baby gorilla named Colo enters the world at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, becoming the first-ever gorilla born in captivity. Weighing in at approximately 4 pounds, Colo, a western lowland gorilla whose name was a combination of Columbus and Ohio, was the daughter of Millie and Mac, two gorillas captured in French Cameroon, Africa, who were brought to the Columbus Zoo in 1951. Before Colo’s birth, gorillas found at zoos were caught in the wild, often by brutal means. In order to capture a gorilla when it was young and therefore still small enough to handle, hunters frequently had to kill the gorilla’s parents and other family members. Gorillas are peaceful, intelligent animals, native to Africa, who live in small groups led by one adult male, known as a silverback. There are three subspecies of gorilla: western lowland, eastern lowland and mountain. The subspecies are similar and the majority of gorillas in captivity are western lowland. Gorillas are vegetarians whose only natural enemy is the humans who hunt them. On average, a gorilla lives to 35 years in the wild and 50 years in captivity. At the time Colo was born, captive gorillas often never learned parenting skills from their own parents in the wild, so the Columbus Zoo built her a nursery and she was reared by zookeepers. In the years since Colo’s arrival, zookeepers have developed habitats that simulate a gorilla’s natural environment and many captive-born gorillas are now raised by their mothers. In situations where this doesn’t work, zoos have created surrogacy programs, in which the infants are briefly cared for by humans and then handed over to other gorillas to raise. Colo, who generated enormous public interest and is still alive today, went on to become a mother, grandmother, and in 1996, a great-grandmother to Timu, the first surviving infant gorilla conceived by artificial insemination. Timu gave birth to her first baby in 2003. Today, there are approximately 750 gorillas in captivity around the world and an estimated 100,000 lowland gorillas (and far fewer mountain gorillas) remaining in the wild. Most zoos are active in captive breeding programs and have agreed not to buy gorillas born in the wild. Since Colo’s birth, 30 gorillas have been born at the Columbus Zoo alone. 1884 John Chisum dies in Arkansas A central player in the violent Lincoln County War of 1878-81, the cattleman John Chisum dies at Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Born in Tennessee in 1824, Chisum moved with his family to Paris, Texas, when he was eleven years old. For several years he worked as construction contractor, but in 1854, he decided to go into the cattle ranching business. By 1875, Chisum was running over 80,000 head of cattle near the Pecos River in Lincoln County, New Mexico. Inevitably, such a large herd ranging over a vast and isolated area attracted the interests of rustlers, and Chisum claimed to have lost nearly 10,000 head to thieves. Fed-up, Chisum joined forces with two other New Mexico cattle kings to do battle with the small cattlemen and merchants they believed were behind the thefts. In particular, the big ranchers targeted two Irishmen who owned a large general store, called the House, in the town of Lincoln. Besides giving aid to the rustlers and small ranchers that Chisum despised, the House also managed to gain control over most of the government contracts for supplying beef to Army posts and Indian Reservations, undercutting the ability of the big ranchers to sell their cattle directly to these buyers at high profits. When a deputy sheriff under the control of the House murdered one of Chisum’s allies in 1878, the Lincoln County War erupted. The battle was about more than that murder, though—it was a struggle for economic and political control of the region. Chisum and the big ranchers turned their cowboys into gunslingers—including a friendly young man named William Bonney, better know as Billy the Kid. Billy the Kid became one of the ranchers’ most loyal and fierce allies, playing a role in the murder of many of the supporters of the House. When the House eventually emerged from the war victorious, Bonney turned to Chisum for help, demanding $500 in wages for his murderous work. When Chisum refused, Billy turned against the rancher and took payment by stealing Chisum’s cattle and horses. Suddenly abandoned by Chisum and the other powerful interests that protected him from the reach of the law, Billy the Kid’s days were numbered. His one-time friend, Pat Garrett, murdered him in 1881. Devastated by the Lincoln County War and the continuing losses of his cattle to rustlers and Indians, Chisum lost much of his wealth and power. Nonetheless, when he died at Eureka Springs, Arkansas, three years after the Lincoln County War ended in 1881, he left an estate that was still worth half a million dollars, a striking indication of the massive wealth he had accumulated. 1978 John Wayne Gacy confesses On this day in 1978, John Wayne Gacy confesses to police to killing over two dozen boys and young men and burying their bodies under his suburban Chicago home. In March 1980, Gacy was convicted of 33 sex-related murders, committed between 1972 and 1978, and given the death penalty. At the time, he was the worst serial killer in modern American history. George Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, overtook Gacy in November 2003, when he admitted to murdering 48 women in the Pacific Northwest. Gacy was born in Chicago on March 17, 1942. Outwardly, he appeared to have a relatively normal middle-class upbringing; however, by some accounts, Gacy had an abusive alcoholic father and also experienced health issues in his youth. In 1964, Gacy married and moved with his wife to Iowa, where he managed his father-in-law’s Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. The couple had two children. However, Gacy’s wife divorced him after he was charged with sexually assaulting one of his male employees in 1968. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but was released due to good behavior after serving only a fraction of his sentence. Gacy moved back to Chicago, where he started a contracting company and remarried. However, the seemingly respectable businessman, who became involved in local politics and once had his photograph taken with then-first lady Rosalynn Carter, was leading a double life as a sexual predator. He committed his first murder in 1972. Gacy’s victims included male prostitutes as well as teenagers who worked for his company. Typically, he lured his victims back to his home and tricked them into being handcuffed or having a rope tied around their necks. Afterward, he’d knock them out with chloroform and then rape, torture and murder them. As he was a well-known community figure–who sometimes dressed up as a clown to entertain sick children–Gacy’s crimes initially went undetected. The heavy-set serial killer came under suspicion in December 1978 when authorities investigating the disappearance of Robert Piest discovered that the teen was last seen with Gacy. After learning of Gacy’s sex-crime conviction in Iowa, police searched his Norwood Park home. They noticed a strong stench coming from a crawl space but at first thought it was from a damaged sewage pipe. Several items, including a store receipt, were later found at Gacy’s home that linked him to Piest and other young men who’d been reported missing. After Gacy confessed, investigators recovered 29 corpses buried on his property, as well as four more that he’d dumped in nearby rivers when he ran out of room at home. After his conviction, Gacy spent 14 years on Death Row, during which time he made paintings of clowns and other figures that sold for thousands of dollars. On May 10, 1994, having exhausted all his appeals, the 52-year-old Gacy, who the media dubbed the Killer Clown, was put to death by legal injection at the Stateville Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois.