Gorilla retires from Taronga
Old Silverback Kibabu from Taronga Zoo is retiring to Mogo Zoo on the South Coast. Kibabu is being replaced by a younger male called Kibali.PT1M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2qwvz 620 349 July 30, 2013
Humans aren't the only primates who retire to the seaside.
One of Taronga Zoo's most loved animals, silverback gorilla Kibabu, will step down from his position as harem leader for a permanent retreat at Mogo Zoo, near Batemans Bay, in the next few weeks.
Kibabu, who turned 36 in May, has guided and guarded his troop since moving to the zoo from the Netherlands in 1996. But according to zoo staff, the 200-kilogram male, who has sired 14 offspring, has grown weary of family politics.
Silverback Kibabu is retiring from Taronga to Mogo Zoo on the south coast. Photo: Anthony Johnson
''He's a little bit tired of managing a large group,'' said the zoo's primate supervisor, Louise Grossfeldt. ''I think he's got a little greyer.
''Kibabu's done his job exceptionally well, so it's time for someone else to come in.''
In the wild, a silverback Kibabu's age would have been challenged by a younger male, possibly even killed for his position.
''The advantage we have here is that we're able to manage his retirement,'' Ms Grossfeldt said.
The silverback will be relocated to Mogo Zoo with two of his favourite females and their two offspring.
Zoo staff, led by senior curator Erna Walraven, conducted a worldwide search to find a replacement silverback with the right mix of leadership skills and good genes.
The primary role of captive breeding programs for endangered species is to maintain the groups' genetic diversity should they need to be reintroduced into the wild.
''We try to manage the breeding programs to retain 90 per cent of the genetic diversity found in the wild over 100 years,'' Ms Walraven said. The team reviewed the international stud book for gorillas where the family lineage of every captive animal is traced back to their wild ancestors.
They settled on the youthful Kibali, a 12-year-old silverback from France who, as well as being the right age and temperament, shared no ancestors with female gorillas in Australia.
''That means their offspring won't be inbred,'' Ms Walraven said. ''He's also very handsome.''
Kibali has been living with an unrelated female since he was imported to the zoo last year. Staff plan to introduce him to another two unrelated females in the coming months.
Ms Grossfeldt said Kibali was already displaying appropriate leadership skills.
''The silverback then becomes the glue that holds the females together,'' she said.