'Gorilla matchmaking' to bring 2 new females to Cincinnati Zoo

Cincinnati Zoo gorilla during annual Halloween event (file image)
Cincinnati Zoo gorilla during annual Halloween event (file image)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - "Jomo," the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's 20-year-old silverback gorilla will soon welcome two female gorillas in hopes of finding true love.

The Cincinnati Zoo is 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 captivity," 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. The gorilla SSP pairs 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 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 captivity 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.

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