Making Moves with Five Gorillas
In theory, summer is a great time to take a road trip. However, I’m happy to start staying in one place for a while! Over the past six weeks, my staff and I traveled more than 1,900 miles, crossed six state lines and spent 36 hours on the road moving nearly 1,000 pounds of live cargo.
That’s right…we successfully transported five gorillas! JoJo safely made it to Brookfield Zoo, Makari to Kansas City Zoo and Tabibu to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Two new incoming males, Umande, from Columbus Zoo, and Mosi, from Little Rock Zoo, safely made their way to Lincoln Park Zoo.
As you can imagine, a lot of preparation and planning goes into coordinating and executing a gorilla move. For example, before JoJo headed to the suburbs, Brookfield Zoo’s gorilla keepers spent more than a month working one on one with the animal care staff at Regenstein Center for African Apes. They got to know JoJo, his operant-conditioning training repertoire, his personality, likes and dislikes. This also gave JoJo an opportunity to get acclimated to his new caretakers.
Likewise, staff from Kansas City and Columbus Zoos spent time getting to know Makari and Tabibu before they left Lincoln Park Zoo, and Lincoln Park Zoo animal care staff traveled to Columbus Zoo and Little Rock Zoo to get to know Umande and Mosi prior to their departure. A month prior to their moves, each gorilla received a pre-shipment examination at their respective institution, ensuring they were medically fit for a transport and relocation.
I won’t bore you with all the less-glamorous details…but let’s just say a significant amount of time was allocated to compiling paperwork for each gorilla, including summaries of significant animal husbandry and management events, reproductive and social histories, diet information, medical records, enrichment preferences, permits, health certificates, agreements between owning and receiving institutions, and even video compilations of each individual’s operant-conditioning training repertoire.
I then choreographed the details and parties involved with executing each “moving day,” including facilities crew members to forklift the “crated” gorilla into the cargo van, veterinary staff to assess and monitor the gorilla’s well-being, keeper staff to provide a comforting and familiar face and an accredited zoo every 100–200 miles along the driving route on call in case of an emergency.
Once we arrived to our destination, which in some cases was in the middle of the night, staff on the receiving end were ready and waiting with their own action plan for unloading the gorilla into their quarantine facility. Finally, to help ease each gorilla into their new surroundings, a familiar keeper stayed behind for nearly a week to make sure the gorilla’s transition was a smooth one.
Since the departure of JoJo, Makari and Tabibu, I have been in constant communication with the animal care staff at their new homes to ensure each individual gorilla is on track with their acclimation process. On the home front, our new boys Umande and Mosi will be clearing quarantine soon, and we will be moving forward with introducing Azizi (JoJo and Makari’s son, who stayed behind at Lincoln Park Zoo) as soon as next week. In early July, we will likely proceed with the introduction of Amare, the young male from Kwan’s troop.
We will be giving all four boys plenty of time to get to know one another, and for Umande and Mosi, time to acclimate to life in Chicago before we move them to an exhibit on public display. I will be sure to send out an update soon on the progress of our new bachelor group…so stay tuned!
Have a great summer everyone!
Maureen Leahy is Lincoln Park Zoo’s curator of primates.
Learn More About the Gorilla Changes
A Gorilla Bachelor Party
Lincoln Park Zoo is ready to welcome an all-male gorilla bachelor group this summer--the latest milestone in a historic legacy of care for the species.
Meet the Bachelors
Amare, Azizi, Mosi and Umande—meet the gorillas who will form Lincoln Park Zoo's first bachelor group!
Dozens of guests and 434 pounds of “cake” made for a silverback-sized farewell party as guests said goodbye to gorillas JoJo, Tabibu and Makari at Regenstein Center for African Apes.
Wish List: New Gorillas in Our Midst
Regenstein Center for African Apes is welcoming two new gorillas this summer—part of the zoo's exciting first bachelor troop. These young males need a bachelor pad fit for kings. Welcome them with a gift from the Wish List!