He’s dark, hairy, young at heart – and makes up for what he lacks in the looks department, with plenty of Irish charm.
Keepers at London zoo are banking on a ten-year-old gorilla called Kesho being able to cheer up a group of bereaved female primates, when he arrives there later this month.
The male blackback is being flown from Dublin in the company of his keepers within weeks to join three females – Zaire, Effie and Mjukuu – who were left bereft when their previous mate died in April.
The Irish-reared gorilla, whose mother used to drag him around by one leg until keepers in Dublin zoo taught her how to carry him, was judged to be socially well-adjusted, and his name emerged early on amongst zoo-watchers as a front-runner for the opening left by Yeboah’s sudden death.
The premature demise of the 20-stone silverback shocked everyone at London zoo, because he had just conceived a baby with Mjukuu, the youngest gorilla, before his death.
One commentators to the zoo chat forum wrote:
If Mjukuu is pregnant it will however make introducing a new male more complicated … [but] I think Kesho from Dublin is an excellent candidate to replace Yeboah
Kesho, who is just beginning to show an interest in the opposite sex, will have to grow up fast – he has just two months to settle in before Mjukuu gives birth and he becomes a foster dad.
But as with all new arrivals, the baby’s birth is likely to prove a stressful time for everyone concerned.
David Field, zoological director of London Zoo, said:
The introduction of a new male into this environment is very precarious. It carries significant risk for the death of the infant when it’s born later this year. But we believe we are making the right decisions based on the expert opinions we have received.
Kesho, a 10-year-old “black back” who is about 18 in gorilla years, was chosen to be young enough to mix in easily with the group but mature enough to provide leadership.
He’s just young enough to integrate with the group in a juvenile sense, but he’s mature enough to start to provide some control and some dominance – it’s a difficult balance. He’s looking to find his niche and beginning to show an interest in females and everything that goes with them.
But the move is still a risky one: new gorillas introduced to a herd any time up to four years after a birth are likely to kill the baby.
London Zoo was given the go ahead by experts at the Gorilla EEP (European Endangered Species Programme) species committee.
In his report, Jan Vermeer wrote how the move should be good for Kesho too:
There is no better enrichment of their life than caring of a baby or experiencing the growing up of other females’ offspring.
It is hoped Kesho will also be able to mate with Mjukuu, 11, the youngest of the females.
After his arrival, he will be monitored 24 hours a day.