Philadelphia Zoo gorillas Jabari and Kira will start family

Jabari was selected by Philadelphia Zoo officials to mate with Kira, also a western lowland gorilla, who will soon be leaving Franklin Park Zoo. (Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Zoo).
Jabari was selected by Philadelphia Zoo officials to mate with Kira. Credit: Philadelphia Zoo

It’s been about a month since Kira and Jabari, two gorillas at the Philadelphia Zoo, were introduced in hopes they would breed. And things are going more smoothly than zoo officials could have imagined.

“We were very pleasantly surprised,” said Kristen Farley-Rambo, gorilla keeper at the zoo. “There has been no aggression, no fighting. They were all very interested.”

Kira is a newcomer to Philly, having been transported here from Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo. She traveled down the Turnpike in June to meet a male, Jabari, and hopefully produce offspring.

When Kira first came to Philly, she was kept separate from the other gorillas, taught the lay of the land and introduced to her new group with mesh curtains where she could see and smell the other primates but not have direct contact. Kira took so well to the others, the preliminary introductions didn’t last very long.

“They have several bedrooms,” said Meredith Bastian, curator of primate and small mammals said, “and they would often be in the same one.”

Farley-Rambo started training with Kira — asking her to present different body parts and giving her back scratches. The interaction is for medical reasons and to form relationships with the trainers.

“It’s enrichment,” she said. “They love training. They get fruit for it.”

Kira has been living with the other gorillas since the beginning of July and was taken off contraceptives a couple weeks later.

“We’ve seen some promising behavior,” she said.

The two have already started mating. Farley-Rambo said Kira is “very interested” in Jabari. The two gorillas are a good match, genetically, both zoo officials said.

“These gorillas are critically endangered,” Bastian said. “We are trying to keep them a viable population. And it’s to educate people about their counterparts in the wild.”

There’s a chance Kira could be pregnant already; she’ll get a pregnancy test in a couple of weeks. If she is, Kira will work closely with the zoo’s veterinary department and continue living with the group. She’s already shown signs of being a good mother.

“She never has had kids of her own but she did play a very large role with her siblings,” Farley-Rambo said. “So we’re really excited that she’s set up for being a first-time mom.”


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