Over the last few months we’ve been training and conditioning our gorilla group to prepare for our eldest female juvenile, Mbeli, to travel to Melbourne to join the international breeding program for this endangered species. It’s natural for gorillas in the wild to leave their family groups whether they are male or female. For females, it means a new life with a silverback to reproduce and keep the gene pool expanding and for a male it means a life of lessons to be learned on how to become a successful silverback and to have his own group.
The position training that our keepers do builds trust between keeper and gorilla and allows the keepers to look after the animal’s health needs a lot easier without any stress. Gorillas are intelligent animals, so once they are shown where keepers want them to be using individual cues, they catch on pretty quick to what we are asking of them.
Sometimes when the gorillas are finding their way to their positions there are some disgruntled coughs from individuals as gorillas very much like their own space and don’t like change if it means moving past another individual, but it all quietens down very quickly.
Mbeli is new to this training and is taking her time in learning the cues from her keeper especially as she is not near her mum to watch her for guidance, but she is slowly understanding and is making great progress. In the coming weeks Mbeli will be prepared for her new adventure, I will update you on her progress and why conditioning and training of our gorillas benefits not only them but helps us in our daily care of such a great ape.