June 17, 2018
The Babysitter: Father of 20 Turns 40
- as seen by -Paul P. Calle
As a zoo veterinarian, I have cared for gorillas throughout my entire 33-year career. Because of their size, strength, and intelligence, they are fascinating but challenging patients. At the same time, they are also very good patients because they respond well to medications when it is necessary to treat them. In addition, we have many medical options available to us because we can use the same types of diagnostic and therapeutic techniques for gorillas as are used for people.
Despite caring for zoo gorillas for such a long time, until last year I had not seen them in the wild. I was very fortunate to be able to watch wild western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at one of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s field sites in the Republic of Congo, where we are working to protect them and the African jungle upon which they depend.
The gorillas were in family groups, each led by a dominant silverback male along with adult females and their offspring of various ages. It was exciting for me to see them in the African jungle behaving the same way that I have seen them in zoos throughout my career. The babies played, wrestled, and roughhoused with each other while the rest of the troop relaxed nearby browsing on vegetation. When they finished playing, the little ones rested next to silverback and father Kingo (above) who has had 20 babies and just turned 40. Our baby gorillas in the family groups at the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit act the same way these wild gorillas in the Republic of Congo do, and now every time I enjoy watching them here at the zoo, I am reminded of all the gorillas we have saved in Africa.