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Big Love at Audubon Zoo
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
There’s a new “sister-wife” here at the zoo. I have been anxious to see her. She’s young and she has a reputation as being a male chaser and flirt. There was already a lot of behind the scenes talk about her. She moved here from Pittsburgh over a month ago I had still not gotten a chance to really get a good look at her.
I went to see her at lunch and sure enough there she was hanging right next to Casey while he ate his lunch of celery. The other two “sister-wives” were out of sight. I was expecting to see a willowy, doe eyed female and not like her. I was surprised-she was homely and stout. My heart went out to her, I’m homely and stout! This was no vixen trying to assert her way into the role of “first-wife”!
The new girl’s name is “Bandia’. She’s a 12 year old Western-lowland gorilla. She’s joining Casey’s troop of endangered Western-lowland gorillas. In the wild they live in relatively small groups of one male and five to seven females. Bandia joins two other females in the troop. We have permission from the Species Survival Plan (SSP programs focus on animals that are in danger of extinction in the wild, when zoo conservationists believe captive breeding programs may be their only chance to survive. These programs also help maintain healthy and genetically diverse animal populations within the zoo community) to let Bandia breed in the future.
Joining a new troop is not easy. It is Casey’s job to mediate disputes between his “wives”. He is doing a great job at that. There have been spats. The two females are not so nice to the new “sister-wife”. There are some slaps, some chasing, some bites. Gorillas exhibit complex relationships. You can learn about their relationships by observing grooming behaviors and physical proximity. Right now Bandia stays very close to Casey. I hope he takes a liking to her. He’s a handsome silverback who didn’t get much say in his choice of females. Perhaps Bandia will have the wiles to flame the passion in Casey. I am rooting for her, us round females have got to stick together.