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Columbus Zoo gorillas headed to new home

POWELL, Ohio — Three gorillas from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are preparing to move to a new home as part of a program to promote genetic diversity and population sustainability among threatened and endangered species.

Two Columbus Zoo Animal Care team members, a member of the facilities team and a staff veterinarian will travel with silverback Oliver and females Nadami and Dotty to ensure they arrive safely at their new facility, which is also accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The move was recommended as part of AZA’s Species Survival Plan, with careful planning to ensure it will benefit the collective population of gorillas in human care, according to a release from the Columbus Zoo.

Gorillas often share strong social bonds, and Oliver and Dotty were part of one of the Columbus Zoo’s three gorilla troops. That troop was gradually changed, with Nadami moving from another, the release said. Both Nadami and Dotty are considered excellent genetic matches with Oliver and have received SSP recommendations to breed with him at their new home, which has yet to be announced publicly.

The release said the trio are doing well living together as a new family unit.

“With his laid-back personality, 37-year-old Oliver is still very serious when it comes to his role as the silverback and leader of his troop,” it said. “Even though he is hearing impaired from an illness when he was very young, he communicates well with his troop. At age 16 years, Dotty has a lot of spunk and is very playful with Oliver and the keeper staff.

Oliver and Dotty have been together for several years and often wrestle and laugh with one another. Nadami, who is 10 years old, is a bit more cautious and reserved, though she is also very curious. She is fitting in well with Oliver as well as Dotty, who has shown playful behaviors toward her.”

The previous member of Oliver and Dotty’s troop, Nia, moved to Nadami’s former troop, led by silverback Ktembe and consisting of females Jamani, Sue and Cassie.

“Nia and Cassie were quickly comfortable with one another; in fact, they lived together until they were 7 years old,” the release said. “Nia and Ktembe had already been previously flirting through the mesh, and Nia has been a welcome addition to the troop.”

The departure of Oliver, Nadami and Dotty will provide the Columbus Zoo with additional space to manage its remaining 14 gorillas and prepare for an eventual bachelor group formed by young males JJ, Kamoli and Sulaiman, who are part of a third troop under silverback Mac.

Every zoo participating in the gorilla SSP is expected to house bachelors in addition to mixed-sex groups, and the Columbus Zoo will now be able to help support the bachelor gorilla population.

“We consider these animals to be members of our zoo family, and while it’s certainly hard to say goodbye, we remain committed to our integral role in participating in collaborative programs working to protect the future of threatened and endangered species,” Interim Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Jerry Borin said in the release. “We are confident that Oliver, Nadami and Dotty will continue to receive excellent care, and we look forward to receiving updates about them from our friends and colleagues at their new home.”

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