ASHEBORO, N.C. — Members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla Species Survival Plan are recommending all gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo be moved to another zoo this fall.
There are strong animal management and welfare reasons for the Species Survival Plan decision. The N.C. Zoo’s young male gorillas need exposure to an adult male role model and need to be introduced to at least another young male in the near future. That’s important so the bachelor group they will live in the remainder of their lives is formed at a young age and they learn behaviors which will transform into adulthood.
Leaders at the zoo call it a necessary recommendation to follow despite how beloved the young gorillas are.
“We all have to play together,” said Ken Reininger, general curator of animal collections at the zoo. “We all have to do what’s requested of us if these populations in captivity are going to survive.”
Members of the Species Survival Plan are recommending the N.C. Zoo receive a group of three adult males to replace its current group of gorillas. Once gorillas at the N.C. Zoo leave this fall, zoo staff hopes to renovate the gorilla holding building, with a goal of having the new gorillas on exhibit by next spring.
“We feel that’s just as good as an exhibit,” said Reininger.
Plans are still being developed and discussed. As zoo staff receive updates from members of the Species Survival Plan we will let the media and public know.
Currently the N.C. Zoo’s gorilla exhibit consists of two young males Bomassa and Apollo who will be two years old in August, their mothers Jamani and Olympia, plus a third female Acacia.
Since 1981, the North Carolina Zoological Park has participated in the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s (AZA’s) Species Survival Plan. The Species Survival Plan, or SSP, began in 1981 as a cooperative population management and conservation program for selected endangered species at North American zoos and aquariums. Each SSP carefully manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.
The mission of the program is to help ensure the survival of selected wildlife species. Currently, 344 SSPs are administered by the AZA, whose membership includes 185 accredited zoos and aquariums throughout North America. Less than a decade ago, zoos and aquariums perceived themselves as “Noah’s Arks,” saving endangered species from extinction through captive breeding. The basic impression was that this captive breeding of populations of endangered species could be used to eventually reestablish and reintroduce these animal populations after they had become extinct (or their populations drastically reduced) in the wild.