Their union was planned months ago. Wiser animals than they scrutinized genetic lines to ensure the pairing — at least on paper — would be fruitful. A repeat of what had happened a decade ago could not happen again. There was too much at stake.


It helped Ngozi was a beauty. Just 10 years of age, her ebony eyes hinted at hidden depths, and the thick dark hair all over her lithe 190-pound body rippled with health as she moved. Born and bred in the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, she caught the eyes of many there.


She was quiet on the day she left. Shipped in a wooden crate, she managed to hear her handlers speaking of a place called “Toronto.” Strong as she was, realizing she would not see her family again, she wept openly, her only sign of discomfort, a gentle crying that broke the hearts of those around her.


She was off to meet the male intended to be the love of her life.


Charles had his own pedigree. A large silverback, he was brought to the Toronto Zoo from the wilderness of Gabon as a baby. He quickly adopted the role of “protector” of his small family and, over the years, he would earn a reputation for his alpha-male dominance and breeding record. Although in the sunset of his life, his masters fully expected him to be able to produce yet another heir — should Ngozi be so inclined, of course.

The meeting of Charles and Ngozi has yet to take place. But already the handlers of both are optimistic babies will be forthcoming.

It has been three months since Ngozi’s arrival. She’s seen her future mate, but they have yet to touch — a clear partition has always been in the way. She has heard him socialize, they have even eaten together, albeit through the double barrier of plastic and mesh. Curiously, she has seen moving images of Charles — and his two wives and their offspring — images dis­- played on what she heard described as a “television.” Their life plots are fascinating when compared to the story lines of the other brighter, animated images she has also watched.

The fateful meeting between Charles and Ngozi will not take place for weeks. First she has to meet his wives, Samantha and Josephine.

Will Charles love her? Will the wives accept her? Will she be happy here? And, most importantly, will she produce offspring?