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Gorilla update: get the inside scoop on how our new group is doing behind the scenes!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications with contributions from gorilla keepers Shawn Bell, Stephanie Payne and Judy Sievert.

Hello, Jamani! Photo: North Carolina Zoo

You may have heard about the recent arrival of three new gorillas at Woodland Park Zoo. They all came within the last month or so and are forming a new family group with 37-year-old Jumoke, who has been living alone since Vip (her male companion) died last year due to age-related medical issues.

Olympia, Jamani and Nadaya! Photos of Olympia and Jamani by North Carolina Zoo, photo of Nadaya by Saint Louis Zoo.

The two new females are 26-year-old Olympia and 22-year-old Jamani (pronounced juh-MAW-nee). They already know each other well and came here together from North Carolina Zoo. The new male is 21-year-old Nadaya (nuh-DIE-yuh) who came here from Saint Louis Zoo. It might be another week or so before you’ll be able to see the new gorillas on the public side of their habitat, so in the meantime we wanted to share some info about how Jumoke is getting along with everyone and give you the inside scoop on all the excitement with introductions happening behind the scenes. Let’s start by getting to know a little more about the new members of our gorilla group! 

Jamani is related to Jumoke and our late matriarch, Nina. Photo: North Carolina Zoo

Jamani is truly a gem—no surprise given that her family history has roots right here at Woodland Park Zoo. She is the great-granddaughter of our beloved matriarch Nina, who passed away in 2015. Always a guest and staff favorite with her tongue sticking out (a sign of relaxation), some of you may remember that Nina loved covering herself with a blanket and grasping a stick, which she often held like a scepter. Two of Nina’s daughters are half-sisters to Jumoke, so Jamani is related to her too. Jumoke is her great-great aunt—and now they are troop-mates!

Jamani is the great-granddaughter of our own Nina, seen here. Our beloved matriarch, who passed away in 2015, was rarely seen without a blanket, a stick which she held like a scepter, and a relaxed tongue-out expression. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Physically, Jamani is quite tall for a female gorilla, with big hands and feet—and she has a deep V-shaped brow ridge. Our gorilla keepers say this socially-savvy female has already won over their hearts with her calm and easy-going demeanor. They say she really likes getting treats and is willing to try lots of different foods with favorites being fruit and popcorn, which she likes to eat out of a puzzle feeder.

Olympia can be both stubborn and sweet. We already love her! Photo: North Carolina Zoo.

Olympia has always been the dominant female in her living situations. She has a big, assertive personality—a bit ironic given that she is physically the smallest of the three females. Since being introduced to her current troop, our gorilla keepers say Olympia can be both stubborn and sweet. On the sweet side, she is very interested in new silverback Nadaya, loves to have his attention and already spends the majority of her time within an arm's length of him. On the stubborn side (or should we say “choosy”?) she will hedge her bets and weigh all the possibilities before agreeing on anything (think of that friend who wants to know every option for dinner before finally picking what or where to eat). 

As far as foods are concerned, Olympia loves fruit and has recently discovered a new favorite treat—rose petals! Apparently, after seeing Jumoke snack on them she decided to try for herself and now she can’t get enough.

Olympia has already taken a shine to silverback, Nadaya. Photo: North Carolina Zoo.

As for our new silverback, this is Nadaya’s first time as the leader of his own group of females. In Saint Louis he lived in a bachelor group of other young males still coming of age. These all-male groups provide really important social development opportunities for males of this age both in zoos and in the wild, while they’re maturing (think too old to live with mom but not old enough to be a leader yet). Mature adult males are known as silverbacks because of the silver hair that grows across their back. Their job is to lead, protect, and maintain peace in the group—and at 21 years old Nadaya is in his prime and ready to take on that role for the first time.

Nadaya, who previously lived in a bachelor group, is in his prime and ready to start his own family! Photo: Saint Louis Zoo

Our gorilla keepers say that Nadaya is a relaxed and calm leader who is very much at ease with all the females in his group and does not like to be separated from them. Currently he spends most of his time with Olympia (perhaps because she goes out of her way to stick close to him—and the other females make way for her) but he does make a point to check in with Jumoke and Jamani throughout the day as well.

Nadaya is already a relaxed and calm leader. Photo: Saint Louis Zoo

As far as preferences go, Nadaya likes sitting on things—even propping his feet up—as opposed to sitting on the ground. Among his favorite enrichment items are big rubber tubs. He apparently likes to both sit on them and to flip them over and sit inside. As for snacks, Nadaya really enjoys his kale!

Jumoke seems quite happy to be with a silverback once again. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

And finally, Jumoke. We’re thrilled that she is once again part of a family group and she seems quite pleased about it, too. She loves Nadaya and seems happy to be with a silverback once again. How do we know? Our gorilla keepers often hear her content-vocalize to him (a soft kind of grunt that, in gorilla language, is a sign of comfort and well-being). As for intros with Olympia, these are taking their time getting to know each other. Each one was the dominant female in their previous troops and since Olympia and Jamani came here with a relationship already established, Jumoke has been respectful of that and deferential when needed.

Who could resist this beautiful face? Not Jumoke as she has already developed a good relationship with Jamani, seen here. Photo: North Carolina Zoo. 

On the other hand, Jumoke has wasted no time developing a good relationship with Jamani. They sit close together while both relax, or eat breakfast and snacks and Jamani even grooms Jumoke on occasion—plus they usually place their outside nests (napping spots) near one another, too. Jamani seems to almost be creating “an alliance” with Jumoke. Perhaps she sees pairing up with another female as a way to level the playing field of Olympia’s dominance? It will be interesting to see how these group dynamics evolve over time.
Olympia is physically the smallest of the females in her group and has a narrow, grayish face. Photo: North Carolina Zoo
You'll be able to see them soon!
We want to remind you that you’ll be able to see all of them soon—so stay tuned! In our other troop, Kwame and the members of his group can hear and smell the new gorillas which has definitely caused some excitement. While the two groups will never share the same space at the same time (a gorilla group usually has only one dominant silverback and they do not tolerate others getting close to their families), they will be able to see each other from certain vantage points in their habitats when both families are outside.

Handsome Nadaya enjoys being with his females. Photo: Saint Louis Zoo

As this group comes together behind the scenes, we want to give a shout-out to all the amazing people who are helping to make this new grouping possible. That includes our gorilla keepers and those at the other zoos, the animal care and animal health staff and the people who manage the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for western lowland gorillas. All of this takes an enormous amount of planning and communication, not only to identify the best genetic matches for a healthy population for this endangered species, but also to share information about specific gorilla personalities, needs and preferences in order to find the best possible fit for each individual.

Recycling your old cell phones and handheld electronics—which you can do at the zoo—helps preserve gorilla habitat. Photo: Elizabeth Bacher/Woodland Park Zoo 

Help gorillas in their natural range
Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo supports conservation of animals in the wild. Join the zoo by recycling old cell phones and other used handheld electronics through ECO-CELL to help preserve gorilla habitat. Reclaiming the minerals in electronics and diverting them from landfills help reduce demand for mining in gorilla habitat. Drop off used handheld electronics including cell phones, smartphones, iPods, iPads, tablets, adapters, chargers, MP3 players, handheld gaming systems, and their accessories at drop boxes located at both zoo entrances and the gorilla overlook. Funds generated from ECO-CELL support our field conservation partners, the Mondika Gorilla Project and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.


Anonymous said…
These are wonderful photos. Thank you for sharing ❤️
Anonymous said…
Nice update! Thank you!
Anonymous said…
I am so excited for the new gorilla group to establish itself!! I used to observe chimpanzees in Chicago!! Fascinating to watch our relatives!!
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
I am so excited for the new Gorillas! I’ve been following Nadaya while at the St Louis. It will be wonderful to have him at Woodland Park! ❤️🦍
Anonymous said…
Kudos to our Keepers for making their transition to new digs comfortable and welcoming🥰