Celebrating Change

Gorillas Tabibu and Azizi dig into the ice cake.

Gorillas Tabibu and Azizi dig into the ice cake.

Zoo Friends Say Goodbye to Gorillas

Bye Bye JoJo – love Joey

I love you, Mak!

I will miss u. You were here when I was a baby.

Written in crayon on oversized banners, these were just a handful of the messages on display at Regenstein Center for African Apes. Guests of all ages had spent the past week sharing drawings and memories, saying goodbye to gorillas JoJo, Makari and Tabibu as the apes prepared to move to new homes.

Guests spent the past week offering farewell messages to the gorillas.

The transfers were all recommended by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan®, which helps zoos throughout the country collaborate to ensure the long-term health of this endangered species. As the adult gorillas join new troops at Brookfield Zoo, Kansas City Zoo and Columbus Zoo, Regenstein Center for African Apes will bring together four juvenile males this summer—the zoo’s first bachelor group!

While Lincoln Park Zoo looks forward to the new arrivals, today was dedicated to saying goodbye to old friends. The gorillas’ outdoor exhibit was decorated for the occasion with edible farewell banners and two towering “ice cakes”—stacked tiers of frozen fruit drinks garnished with iceberg lettuce and scoops of sugar-free cereal. Appropriately, the snacks were silverback sized, with the biggest cake weighing in at 434 pounds.

JoJo, Azizi and Tabibu enjoy the extra enrichment.

JoJo, Azizi and Tabibu enjoy the extra enrichment.

Dozens of guests lined up outside the building to see the apes enjoy the extra enrichment. After gaining access to their outdoor yard at 10 a.m., the gorillas quickly dismantled the treats, carrying off massive fruit to far corners of the exhibit to enjoy at leisure.

Visitors enjoyed watching the apes interact with the treats. Some came specifically for the party. “My sister couldn’t come today, so I came to see them instead,” says Connie Vepstas. “I was really impressed.”

Others were happy to discover the farewell festivities during a routine visit. “We’re from Louisville, Kentucky, looking for places to go,” says Paulette Sublett, one of 35 people visiting Chicago on a spring break trip with a YMCA Youth Achievers Program. “I thought it was amazing it was free—there’s no excuse for people not to come.”

While every day at Lincoln Park Zoo offers free fun, today offered something extra for guests and gorillas alike. While it’s hard to say goodbye to old friends, a good party—and 434 pounds of frozen cake—makes the final farewell much easier.


by James Seidler • Published April 10, 2012

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