Cincinnati Zoo Celebrates Silverback Gorilla Jomo’s 30th Birthday

Posted July 16, 2021

CINCINNATI (July 16, 2021) – The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden often celebrates milestone animal birthdays, but silverback gorilla Jomo’s big 3-0 is one that is especially significant.  Since being diagnosed with a degenerative, incurable spinal cord condition two years ago, Jomo has had mobility issues and some close calls.  Today, however, he is doing well and enjoying cake with his troop.

“He has been participating in regular physical therapy sessions, and those seem to help,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s head gorilla keeper Ashley Ashcraft.  “We keep a close eye on him and adjust treatments, which include medication and laser therapy, accordingly.  He moves a little slower than he used to but is still great with the kids in his group and is clearly the boss.”

Jomo has sired three gorillas during the 16 years that he has been at the Cincinnati Zoo and has been a surrogate dad to 8-year-old female Gladys since she was a baby. His oldest, a male named Bakari, lives in Oklahoma, and his two girls, Mona and Elle, are in his current troop.

“Thirty is not considered geriatric for a gorilla, but the care he receives is similar to what we would provide for an older animal” said Ashcraft. “As his condition progresses, and we don’t know the timeline for that, visitors may notice more labored walking and other physical changes.  Just know that we are taking great care of him and monitoring his health.”

Jomo is a big gorilla. He weighs about 400 pounds, which is twice as much as the adult females in his group.  His size helps him continue to perform his silverback duties, which include protecting and leading the troop.  According to his keepers, he is also a big softie when it comes to the kids.

“He is especially close to Mona, and often comes to her defense when there is conflict,” said Ashcraft. “He also enjoys training, especially when motivated by fruit or corn.  We made his special birthday cake with his favorite fruits, sugar free ice treats, yogurt, and oats.”

Visitors can see Jomo and the other western lowland gorillas in Gorilla World daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Members enjoy early entry at 9 a.m.

Western lowland gorillas are a critically endangered species. This means they could become extinct in the wild if current conditions continue. The rainforest habitat they share with thousands of other plant and animal species is under constant threat due to deforestation, mineral mining and more.  An estimated 2000 gorillas are lost annually. The good news is a lot of concern people and organizations like the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden are helping to do something about it. For more than 20 years, the Cincinnati Zoo has been supporting wild western lowland gorilla conservation work in the Republic of Congo. This work has expanded over the years to cover several efforts in the region and with the Nouabale Ndoki Project (NNP).