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New male gorilla exploring habitat mingling with females at Little Rock Zoo

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L. Lamor Williams
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Susan Altrui
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Kivu, new male gorilla, joins females in public viewing area

LITTLE ROCK (July 6, 2016) – Kivu, a western lowland gorilla has been strutting his stuff and getting used to his new home at the Little Rock Zoo where he’s been living since June. He’s now the leader of the Zoo’s formerly all-female family.

“We’ve been very careful to slowly introduce Kivu to the females. Until recently, they’ve been separated by fencing so they could see and smell each other in the off-exhibit area,” Zoo Director Mike Blakely said. “You can never predict how introductions will go – if animals will get along, but we’ve been very pleased.”

Curator Syd Tanner said Kivu is still hesitant in the new enclosure and has been spending short periods of time outdoors.

“Each day, he stays out a little longer and goes a little farther into the enclosure,” she said. “There’s quite a bit more space than he’s used to and he’s not yet comfortable with having people above him in the observation areas.”

Tanner also noted that the Arkansas summer heat may be playing a factor.

“He’s a smart boy,” she said. “He may just prefer being in the air conditioning.”

The 24-year-old silverback came to the Little Rock from the Santa Barbara Zoo, where he was one of two bachelors. The other troop member, Kivu’s brother Goma, has moved to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado to join females there.

Kivu and Goma play an important role in the conservation of the western lowland gorilla. Their genes are needed to maintain the genetic diversity of gorillas in human care as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. The plan makes breeding recommendations and helps participating zoos find mates for threatened species.

“In the wild silverbacks sire the young, guide the group to feeding and sleeping areas and protect them from threats,” Blakely said. “It’s our hope that Kivu will father baby gorillas to save this endangered species.”

The Western lowland gorilla is an endangered species found predominately in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The two main threats for this species are habitat destruction and hunger which drives people to hunt gorillas for bushmeat.


About the Zoo
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