New gorilla at Philadelphia Zoo could start family

Motuba may not know it just yet but he’s going to be the dominant male gorilla at the Philadelphia Zoo.

The 430-pound silverback gorilla strolled into town last week — and although introductions to his new primate family have yet to happen — zoo handlers have high hopes for him; they hope he’ll mate with female Kira to start a family.

“The family structure is really dependent on the silverback,” said Kristen Farley-Rambo, gorilla keeper. “He’s the glue of the group. He provides leadership and structure.”

The gorilla group had been without a patriarch — and without a potential mate for Kira — since 28-year-old Jabari unexpectedly died in August. Jabari had been paired up with Kira to start a family since she joined the group from Boston in June. Before Jabari could start a family with Kira, he died of a bacterial infection and left a huge hole in the family group.

Zoo officials worked with the Species Survival Plan program and they found that Motuba, from Omaha, was a great genetic match with Kira.

“He was deemed our guy,” said Farley-Rambo. “He arrived Thursday night. We haven’t done full introductions yet but we’ve seen mutual interest. The girls are interested in him and we’ve heard some breeding vocalization.”

The female gorillas will also be “shifting” better, Farley-Rambo said. The males lead the group from one space to another. “Right now, without that leadership, they are doing whatever they want.”

In the next two weeks, introductions will happen and Kira will be taken off birth control to possibly breed.

 

Gorilla profile

Name: Motuba

Type: Western lowland gorilla

Age: 29

Sign: Aquarius. Born Jan. 25, 1985

Weight: 430 pounds

Body type: Hairy “in a good way!” says Farley-Rambo

Personality type: Smart, laid back

 

Matchmaking — How do you know when there’s a match?

The Gorilla Species Survival Plan program looks at every single captive gorilla available to try to find a genetic match. Using mathematical equations, Farley-Rambo said officials look at actual genes to see which two gorillas would be best at mating.

Louis, a teenage male gorilla at the Philadelphia Zoo, is not a good genetic match with Kira or even Honi, another female there.

“You have to look at the entire family line,” Farley-Rambo said, “like how many offspring did his family have. Also, you look at personality.”

Motuba has no offspring yet. He lived with bachelor gorillas for most of his life.

 

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly

Follow City Editor Christina Paciolla on Twitter: @cpaciolla

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