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Gorilla families settle in, continue to thrive

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications 

Kitoko loves to climb! It's a skill he learned from his mom, Uzumma. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Many of you already know that we now have two Western lowland gorilla family groups here at Woodland Park Zoo, each led by its own silverback. And both are continuing to do really well!

Nadaya is a spectacular silverback! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Silverback Nadaya is one of three gorillas we welcomed earlier this summer to form a new family group with 37-year old Jumoke, who had been living alone since Vip (an elderly silverback who was her mate) died last year. This is 21-year-old Nadaya’s first time as the head of his own group of females and he is making great strides as he learns how to be an adept leader. In addition to Jumoke, Nadaya’s group includes females Olympia (26-year-old) and Jamani (22). In the rare instance when he might "get on the wrong side" of one of them, all three females look out for each other to keep Nadaya in line. But overall, they’re seemingly smitten with him, and who could blame them?! He is quite a spectacular silverback and is proving to be a relaxed and calm leader.

26-year-old Olympia is on the smaller side for an adult female—but she has a big personality! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo 

Nadaya, Jumoke, Olympia and Jamani are all doing really well together and are bonding as a family group. Other than separating the group for some one-on-one training behind-the-scenes (these sessions help build trust between the gorillas and our animal keepers, which allows us to more closely monitor their health and well-being in a calm, stress-free environment) all three females like to stay pretty close to Nadaya—and he likes having them near him, too. As a matter of fact, they all have plenty of space in which to spread out, including at least 5 behind-the-scenes “bedrooms”, yet the group almost always chooses to stay together at night—all sleeping in one room.

Jamani is a niece of Jumoke, who is her great-great aunt. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

A silverback’s role is to maintain peace within his group and to guard them from outside threats. That includes protecting them from physical harm as well as preventing any of his females from being “lured away” by another male. Simply put, most silverbacks do not tolerate the presence of potential rivals—so it’s no surprise that Nadaya’s arrival caused a few “ruffled feathers” for Kwame and his family group.

Jumoke, who is 37, is thriving with her new family group! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

The two troops will never share the same space at the same time, but they can hear each other, smell each other and see each other from certain vantage points in their habitats. Kwame is a cautious gorilla and he has taken his time to make sure that the “new silverback neighbor” poses no harm to his family. Now, secure in the understanding that all is well, Kwame and his group have all settled back into their focus of being a family—and for the youngsters that includes lots of time playing, growing, and learning the important “business” of gorilla-ing!

Sisters! Yola and Zuna like to wrestle ... and snuggle! Photo: Courtesy of Beth Keplinger

Kwame’s group includes Nadiri and her baby Zuna; Uzumma and her son Kitoko; and females Yola and Akenji. The two youngest members of the group are, Kitoko who is 2 ½ and Zuna who is about 20 months old (she turns 2 in January). As she grows, Zuna is becoming more comfortable and confident venturing off to play with Kitoko (her half-brother) and Yola (her half-sister, who will turn 7 in November). She and Yola engage in frequent wrestling matches, sometimes right next to their mother (they are both Nadiri’s daughters) as she is trying to take an afternoon nap.

Zuna and Kitoko have epic wrestling matches! Photo: Courtesy of Beth Keplinger

Little Kitoko loves to climb—a skill he has, no doubt, learned from his mother Uzumma who is a very confident climber herself. Adventurous Zuna is perfecting her climbing technique too—and more importantly has learned to quickly slide back down (like a firefighter) out of the reach of a rambunctious Kitoko who likes the game of pushing and pulling her down. All of these antics—the jumping, the climbing, the wrestling and the pushing games—are an integral part of the fun of growing up gorilla!

Kitoko catches a piggyback ride from mama, Uzumma—while dad, Kwame watches from behind. Photo: Courtesy of Beth Keplinger

You can help save endangered gorillas!
Every time you visit our gorillas—or any of our animals—a portion of your admission or membership helps us support field conservation partners like the Mondika Gorilla Project and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

You can help save gorillas and gorilla habitat by recycling old cell phones and other used handheld devices through the zoo's ECO-CELL program. Photo: Elizabeth Bacher/Woodland Park Zoo

You can also help save gorillas by recycling old cell phones and other used handheld electronics through our ECO-CELL program. Reclaiming the minerals in electronics and diverting them from landfills help reduce demand for mining in fragile gorilla habitat. You can drop off used handheld electronics including cell phones, smartphones, iPods, iPads, tablets, chargers, MP3 players, handheld gaming systems, and their accessories at drop boxes located at both zoo entrances and the gorilla overlook at the exhibit. The funds generated from ECO-CELL also go to support our gorilla conservation partners.

All for Animals Giving Day

This All for Animals Giving Day, September 15, 2022, consider making a donation to our Saving Species Impact Fund, which directly supports conservation projects that save wildlife and wild places. Through Woodland Park Zoo’s partnership with over 35 wildlife conservation organizations in the Pacific Northwest and around the world, your gift helps to conserve wildlife, preserve fragile habitats and increase public awareness for wildlife and environmental issues.

Your gift to the SSIF helps protect forests and their inhabitants around the world, like the Western lowland gorilla. We thank you for gifts of any size: