Gorilla male Aybo has moved to Zoo Arcachon Basin in France. He is the first in a series, as the rest of the gorilla group will also move to other zoos in the coming years. In the future, no new permanent group will return to Blijdorp.
This decision stems from Blijdorp's refined mission and vision in the area of species conservation and nature restoration, which was presented at the beginning of this month. To achieve these objectives, sometimes tough choices must be made, and this is one of them. Consideration was given to Blijdorp's limited space and the level of impact that can be achieved. Part of the future plan also includes the renovation of the Riviera Hall, where the gorillas are currently housed. Once all the gorillas have moved and if construction has not yet started, the enclosure may be used as a temporary shelter. The decision regarding the gorilla group was made in coordination with the population management program coordinator.
The current gorilla group consists of two bloodlines from females Tamani and Aya, with their offspring (the origin is recognizable by names that start with a T or an A). All the offspring have gorilla male Bokito as their father. He died this spring. The group currently lacks a leader to maintain order and correct wrong behavior. If unrest in the group occurs, there is a possibility to separate the gorillas in Blijdorp.
Introducing a new silverback is very risky. In a takeover, he can kill the young ones, which are not his. This is natural behavior, known as infanticide. The natural mechanism behind this is that females become fertile again quickly after the death of their young. Thus, the new silverback can quickly produce his own offspring and pass on his genes.
All scenarios for the individual gorillas are thoroughly discussed with the coordinator of the population management program. In nature, animals must find a solution themselves. There, a gorilla group usually does not maintain the same composition. Females can join another group, or a group can be taken over by a new leader.
Suitable new homes have been found for almost all the gorillas in the long term. However, it may take several years before the last gorilla leaves Blijdorp. The exact schedule of these relocations is not yet known, except that gorilla male Aybo will be the first to leave. His mother Aya and her youngest offspring Ajabu will move together, and a suitable place is also being sought for his sister Ayba. The other group consisting of Tamani, Tonka, and Thabo will most likely move together to Italy.
Erik Zevenbergen, Director of Diergaarde Blijdorp: “This decision, of course, has a huge impact on all involved and our visitors. It was a difficult decision that we discussed for a long time. A new course naturally requires different, sometimes difficult, choices. The fact is that we want to house our animals as well as possible and make an impact with the species we focus on. We look not only at today but also at what is best for the future.”
Diergaarde Blijdorp faces a challenging task. On November 1, the renewed mission and vision were presented as described in the Masterplan 2050. This means a transition to an organization that, more than before, commits to species conservation and nature restoration and wants to take the lead with all available knowledge and experience. One of the focus points of this shift is our ambassadors, ten animal and plant species that will represent their wild counterparts and with which we want to make an impact on the level of threat.
Despite the departure of the gorillas, Diergaarde Blijdorp will continue to commit to this critically endangered species in the future. Our western lowland gorillas have long been the ambassador for their wild counterparts. In Africa, they are threatened by habitat destruction, poaching, and wars. Much habitat is lost due to mining the raw material coltan. This ore is used in mobile phones. Diergaarde Blijdorp has supported the nature conservation project in Congo Brazzaville, Mbeli Bai Study, for years and will continue to support this project for the time being.