Friday, January 18, 2013

A Gorilla Family Reunited

Once again, humans have underestimated their gorilla cousins, at least in this case.

Zookeepers at Ireland’s Dublin Zoo loaned 11-year-old Kesho to the London Zoo in 2010 in the hope that he would successfully breed with the London Zoo’s female gorillas. Left behind were his little brothers, Alf, then 7, and 4-year-old Evindi.

Kesho proved to be unable to produce offspring, so he was returned to Ireland two years later, where he was placed in a new home at Wiltshire’s Longleat Safari Park, which had just built a new $5 million enclosure to house its gorillas.

Alf was already at the park, but zookeepers were uncertain whether the two animals would get along together. So they built a temporary cage to keep the brothers separated until they could see how the pair would react to one another. Kesho and Alf surprised their keepers.

Even though Kesho had gained about 200 pounds during his absence, it was obvious to the observers that the two gorillas immediately recognized one another. Overcome with obvious joy, the brothers excitedly reached through the cage to touch each other.

Twenty-four hours later, the gorillas were finally allowed to be together. They hugged and squeezed one another, wrestled and slapped one another’s shoulders. Even the most cynical observer could easily see that the two brothers reacted to their reunion after their long separation just like a pair of human brothers would. Silverback gorillas like Kesho are often reserved around other gorillas, but both he and Alf acted like children on a playground. The reunion was captured on camera and can be seen here.

The brothers had another surprise waiting for them. Their younger brother Evindi, now six years old, joined his older siblings at the safari park. The little family is now united, hopefully never to be separated again.

The gorillas’ behavior shows that they are not only emotionally attached to their family members, but that separating them might even cause emotional damage. Should zookeepers think twice about separating gorilla family members? It looks like they should.

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