Brookfield Zoo gorilla group gets a new leader, 26-year-old Jontu

Meanwhile, a young male gorilla has headed off to St. Louis Zoo.

SHARE Brookfield Zoo gorilla group gets a new leader, 26-year-old Jontu
Brookfield Zoo has a new male western lowland gorilla, Jontu. The silverback recently arrived from St. Louis Zoo.

Brookfield Zoo has a new male western lowland gorilla, Jontu. The silverback recently arrived from St. Louis Zoo.

Saint Louis Zoo

Like a college freshman starting fraternity life, 7-year-old Zachary has left Brookfield Zoo to join a group of bachelor western lowland gorillas in St. Louis.

“He’ll learn basically how to be a responsible male gorilla,” said Tim Snyder, Brookfield’s vice president of animal care.

Heading in the opposite direction is Jontu, a 26-year-old gorilla from Saint Louis Zoo.

“He’s a prime candidate to lead a troop of females. He’s a perfect age for it,” Snyder said.

Because Zachary is related to Brookfield’s all-female gorilla family — Binti, Koola, Kamba, Nora and Ali — he can’t mate with them, Snyder said. Enter Jontu.

For the next few weeks, Jontu will remain behind the scenes while he gets used to his new surroundings and before he’s introduced to the females.

“We will slowly introduce them. ... Their introductions can be really aggressive sometimes, and we don’t know how it’s going to go because it’s a stranger coming into somebody else’s territory,” Snyder said.

As for Zachary, he’ll be hanging out with the other guys in St. Louis before he’s introduced to the female gorillas.

“In the wild, male gorillas, once they reach a certain age — it’s anywhere from 6 to 13, depending on the troop and the situation — what they’ll do is leave the troop they were born into and they’ll either be solitary in the wild or they’ll join small groups of males. We’re kind of mimicking that here, by sending him to St. Louis to join a bachelor group,” Snyder said.

Western lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered. There are about 300,000 of them found in swamps and dry lowland forests throughout Western Equatorial Africa.

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