The next generation in Taronga Zoo’s international conservation breeding program for Western Lowland Gorillas has moved into their refurbished Gorilla Forest exhibit.
Led by the new French-born male, Kibali, the females, Mbeli, 10, and Johari, 13, have spent the last few days exploring the exhibit which had been renovated ahead of their move.
Kibali arrived in early 2012 after a global search for a suitable male by Zoo staff including Primate Superviser, Louise Grossfeldt, and Senior Curator, Erna Walraven.
Louise said: “We wanted a mother-raised gorilla that had the some of the same remarkable qualities to lead our gorilla group as Kibabu, Taronga’s former silverback who was famous for his calm style and even temperament. He retired mid-year to Mogo Zoo with two senior females and their off-spring.”
“We’ve successfully introduced him to two new females, Mbeli, who was originally born at Taronga and returned from Melbourne Zoo with Johari, while another female, Kimya, was transferred into Melbourne’s breeding group.”
After seeing several male gorillas in Europe, the 12 year old Kibali, an adolescent, known as a blackback, was chosen by Louise and Erna to lead Taronga’s gorilla family in the future.
His role is part of Taronga's careful management of its breeding group which is part of global zoo efforts to protect this Critically Endangered species against extinction. With estimates that there are as few as 100,000 left in the wild, Kibali’s selection will introduce valuable new genetics into our breeding group.
Besides its important international breeding role, Taronga’s gorillas are the Zoo’s main focus of the “They’re Calling You” community mobile phone recycling program to reduce illegal mining in sensitive gorilla habitat, funding local projects such as ranger patrols and raising awareness of the illegal bushmeat and pet trades.