Walking on Knuckles Preferred
Cincinnati, OH (October 28, 2011) – Trying to find a good match for a gorilla can sound much like a personal ad for humans (without the knuckle walking, of course). “Jomo,” the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s 20-year-old silverback gorilla will soon welcome two female gorillas in hopes of finding true love. Cincinnati Zoo gorillas have been some of the most prolific gorillas in zoos, making Cincinnati one of the top breeders of this endangered species in the world, with 48 births to date.
Gorilla dating can be a slow process. “Asha”, a nine-year-old female gorilla from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, arrived in Cincinnati on October 13, but she will remain off exhibit until next spring. “Anju”, a 10-year-old female gorilla from the Pittsburgh Zoo is scheduled to arrive next spring. The Cincinnati Zoo will slowly introduce Asha and Anju to Jomo.
“All of the females that currently live here at the Cincinnati Zoo are considered over represented in zoos,” said Ron Evans, Primate Team Leader at the Cincinnati Zoo. “However, our male Jomo is not. In order to breed Jomo, we needed to bring in other females that are genetically valuable.”
The “gorilla match-making” was set up by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program, which acts like an online dating service that places gorillas at accredited zoos in the United States. However, the gorilla SSP is less interested in playing matchmaker based on superficial qualities such as looks, personality and income and more interested in pairing gorillas together based on genetics, age and biology.
As part of the SSP’s role in managing gorillas, the program looked closely at the entire gorilla population in the United States to see where the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorillas could best be served. On Tuesday, November 8, two of the Zoo’s beloved female gorillas, “Madge,” 30 and “Shanta,” 14, will be leaving Cincinnati to meet “Patrick,” 21, at the Dallas Zoo in Texas.
“As genetically over represented females, Madge and Shanta are needed to help socialize Patrick, a lone male living at the Dallas Zoo,” said Evans. “It is a primary
goal of managing gorillas in zoos to not have solitary individuals. Madge and Shanta’s social skills make them a great match for Patrick’s personality.”
Both Madge and Shanta are very socially savvy and highly skilled at how to approach a new silverback. They use a combination of non-confrontation, appropriate aggression, sexual persuasion and retreat to deal with a silverback’s personality. Patrick has been alone for a number a years and will need experienced females to help him along in his socialization.
Once the pair arrives in Dallas, they will go into quarantine at the A.H. Meadows Animal Health Care Facility to be properly introduced to their new environment. They will then join Patrick at the Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center for slow introductions. With much milder winters in Texas than in Ohio, Madge and Shanta will be given the opportunity this winter to explore their new outdoor home before they are officially introduced to Patrick in the exhibit.
The Cincinnati Zoo is also planning to say goodbye to “Muke,” 29 and her son “Bakari,” 5 in the spring. Both will be headed to the Oklahoma City Zoo. This move is being made to integrate Bakari into a family group that contains two other young males close to his age, to address his current and long term social needs.
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink. The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year. The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts like the Mbeli Bai Study. The Mbeli Bai Study is the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas. Through research, local education programs, publications and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival.