In a bid to further increase the population of this Critically Endangered species, a Western lowland gorilla named Kiburi has flown 3,062 kilometers (1,903 miles) via DHL Express to join the international breeding programme at ZSL London Zoo.
Travelling from Zoo Loro Parque in Tenerife, the 18-year-old 193-kilogram (425-pound) silverback has joined the zoo’s Gorilla Kingdom where he has met females Mjukuu and Effie, and youngsters Alika and Gernot.
“After spending his first few days at London Zoo settling into his new digs behind-the-scenes, Kiburi today ventured into the troop’s indoor play-gym for the first time, where he enjoyed a breakfast of juicy red peppers and tested out the area’s new rope swings – a housewarming gift from the ZSL team,” explains gorilla keeper Glynn Hennessy in a statement.
Kiburi arriving at London Heathrow on his swanky private jet. Image credit: DHL / ZSL
The addition of Kiburi to the breeding efforts at ZSL London Zoo came after the passing of male Kumbuka in 2018. After four years, and with the help of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, the team were able to identify Kiburi as a suitable replacement male for the troop.
“We were excited when they suggested Kiburi – a playful but authoritative silverback who had just come of age,” says Hennessy of the described gentle giant. “We found him to be a calm, friendly individual and a great fit for our own gorilla family’s dynamic. He loves a lie-in in the mornings and is more active in the afternoon, which is why we spent the past few weeks installing lots of fun new climbing apparatus for him to enjoy – when he ventures out of bed!”
With an estimated wild population of around 100,000, Western lowland gorillas are considered Critically Endangered. Species numbers are under threat of habitat loss, poaching, climate change, and disease.
Since 2000, it’s thought the Ebola virus has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of gorillas. Deforestation and habitat loss is shrinking the gap between human and wild gorilla populations, increasing the exchange of diseases as well as depleting the gorillas’ access to natural resources.
Despite the copious threats to Western lowland gorilla populations in the wild, international breeding efforts like that at ZSL London Zoo are helping to slowly rebuild captive numbers.
“ZSL is working to protect the species at ZSL London Zoo by taking part in this vital global breeding programme, while investigating wildlife diseases at ZSL’s world-leading Institute of Zoology, working with partners in the field to strengthen wildlife protection and surveillance, and empowering local communities to combat wildlife crime,” says ZSL London Zoo’s Zoological Operations Manager Dan Simmonds.
“In time we hope to hear the pitter patter of tiny gorilla feet once again in Gorilla Kingdom.”