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Two Young Gorillas Must Leave NC Zoo, Here's Why


This fall the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro will ship its five gorillas away.  The decision was made after a recommendation from the members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Gorilla Species Survival Plan. 

Here’s the problem—wild gorillas exist in groups that include one male, two or three females and their offspring.  Two baby male gorillas were born at the North Carolina Zoo this fall, Apollo and Bomassa, and all was well.

But then the father, Nkosi, died in November, which left no adult male role model for the two young gorillas.   

Can't the zoo just bring in an adult to mentor the young?  Turns out, it's not so easy. Ken Reininger is general curator at the zoo.

"Generally the male in a group only has his offspring in the group and for evolutionary and genetic reasons. They basically don’t accept an animal that is not part of their own family," Reninger says. "So in order to bring an adult male in and introduce him to two young males that are not his would have had a fair amount of risk involved. An adult male would generally either severely injure or kill an animal in that situation." And that was not a situation that the zoo wanted to risk.

Nationwide, there are more male than female gorillas in captivity. The gorillas that are leaving will be placed with other young male gorillas. They will be raised in a group, as brothers. The gorilla exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro will be closed until the spring when a different group of young bachelor gorillas will be introduced.

Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
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