The introduction of gorillas Imani and Frank to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s gorilla troop is moving along nicely (see previous post, How Are Zoo’s Gorillas Faring at Safari Park?). It started with Imani and Frank having visual access to the troop. All the gorillas could see, smell, and even touch fingers with each other through mesh “windows.” Youngsters Frank and Monroe played and played through the mesh!
Once Imani was ready (we were waiting for her to ovulate), our silverback Winston was allowed into Frank and Imani’s rooms. Winston and Imani hit it off right away! There was some expected tension between Winston and Frank, as Frank was used to playing with silverback Paul Donn while living at the San Diego Zoo, and didn’t really know what to make of Winston. The three were given access to the gorilla exhibit and did well, but Frank pretty much steered clear of Winston.
After several days of this, it was time to give Frank a break and start the next step of the process. Winston was separated from Imani and Frank and reunited with adult females Vila and Kami. Kokamo and her son, Monroe, and Imani and Frank were initially given access to each other for several hours a day. Monroe was understandably apprehensive and stayed very close to his mom, but as time went on, Frank and Monroe started to play together more and more in the bedrooms, and the time they spent together was increased.
Over the past two weeks, the comfort level of these four has increased significantly, and the boys play quite a bit on exhibit as well. Now they are together 24 hours a day, and soon we will be making more progress in uniting Winston, Vila, and Kami with Kokamo, Monroe, Imani and Frank!
It takes time and patience to facilitate the integration of new troop members, but the successful outcome will be well worth it!
Peggy Sexton is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.