London Zoo awaits the arrival of new male gorilla
Friday 1 February 2002
London Zoo's four female western lowland gorillas are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new male gorilla from France
Since the sad death in January 2001 of Jomie the silverback, the settled social group has been significantly disrupted. Jomie, as with all male gorillas in social groups, played an important role as the dominant animal. There were plans for the group to breed and therefore help conserve this endangered species whose populations are crashing in the wild. Jomie had a very calming effect on the females and was able to sort out any squabbles between them. They enjoyed his company and have missed him greatly since he died. His death particularly affected Zaire. Her behaviour changed radically and she began to become the dominant animal; this led to her bullying one of the other female gorillas.
With the best welfare of the group in mind, the keepers had to make the hard decision to move her to a separate adjacent enclosure while the Zoo awaited the imminent arrival of the new male. Her neighbouring enclosure still allowed her to have visual and vocal contact with her fellow gorillas, but it prevented her from causing them any distress. Since her move, the keepers have spent even more time with her to help her through this difficult period and, being a hand-reared animal, she has a very close bond with her keepers.
As part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), a new male was due to arrive from a French Zoo on 11 December 2001. The complex business of moving a large, endangered and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) listed species was organised: a London Zoo keeper went to France to see the male; health checks were carried out; crates and tickets had been arranged; and the complicated paper work was in order. However, several days before the actual move, the French Zoo suddenly lost their own silverback gorilla and regretfully the planned move had to be cancelled. Another younger male has been found, however, the process has had to start all over again with new permits to be applied for and new arrangements made. London Zoo is trying to complete this as soon as possible.
This has been an unfortunate delay but it is hoped that he will be on his way as soon as his health checks are completed. His arrival will allow the Zoo to restore the stability of the gorilla group and allow Zaire to re-join the other females.
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