Kibabu, our majestic Silverback, holds a special place in the hearts of many ...not least of all his dedicated keepers who have cared for him since he arrived in 1996.
For our keepers, Kibabu’s retirement is bittersweet. They know Kibabu is ready for an easier life and ready to relinquish the challenging Silverback role, and they’re delighted that Kibabu will be able to live out his later years with his favourite female partners on the NSW South Coast.
In the wild, an aging Silverback would be challenged by a younger male, sometimes fatally, for his position, or the females would disband and leave the old Silverback to live alone.
For Kibabu, the next phase of his life will be stress and conflict free, and although this follows the natural lifecycle of gorillas in the wild, it will still be hard for our keepers to say goodbye to one of their beloved animals.
As a way of farewelling this extraordinary Taronga family member, the keepers have shared a few of their special memories and insights about Kibabu.
Allan, Jane and Katie
One of the favourite keeper memories of Kibabu revolves around his tolerance for of youngsters in the group. Often the keepers will see Kibabu playing with the infants, but if he notices anyone looking he will instantly stop. Keepers believe this is to maintain a serious reputation befitting a Silverback.
Primate Keeper, Katie loves the fact that Kibabu will allow the little ones, particularly the three year old Kipenzi to take his favourite foods and playfully chuck bark at him. “He just sits there and let’s it slide...” says Katie.
I like the fact that he lets the ducks stay in the exhibit. I remember watching him one day when a duck was sitting close to one of Kibabu’s lettuces. Rather than scaring the bird away, he moved the duck sideways, cleaned the lettuce on his arm and then ate it!
Kibabu always steps up as the leader, like a true Silverback when he needs to. The main role of a Silverback is to protect and lead the group in times of stress. You can always see Kibabu watching over his family and their home.
I love the way Kibabu always comes out of the front indoor room around feeding time. He sits in his spot in the exhibit, waiting, and if you’re a little bit late with his food he’ll come over and look through the window into the Keeper area and see what the hold-up is!
Kibabu is always very gentle towards everyone, firm but not overly aggressive when members of the family are squabbling. I also admire his ‘commitment’ to Mouila – always his favourite female!
My favourite memory working with Kibabu was during a training session. In training sessions we reward Kibabu with food, and it’s clear from his 210 kilogram frame, that he LOVES his food, but during the session he invited other members of the family to share the food and participate.
I have so many memories of working with Kibabu, I think for me there are two distinct ones.
Kibabu as the gentle father and leader of his group, it was always wonderful to see him playing with his offspring in the front room or even on exhibit but it was always funny when he saw you he would stop and look as though he wasn’t doing anything, I guess he didn’t want us to see him with his guard down. The other moment which I think cemented my career as primate keeper was when I was training as a Gorilla keeper and being in the same area as Kibabu. I just remembering thinking “Wow what a magnificent animal” then when he lead his family out onto exhibit it bought a tear to my eye, he is truly an inspiration to his family and his species.
Oh I could go on forever...Kibabu is a very special Taronga family member!