Animal Highlight: Gorillas
Zoo Atlanta proudly cares for one of the largest populations of western lowland gorillas in the United States. The gorillas at the Zoo live in five troops and range in age from 2 to 57 years old. With this variety of ages and groups, Zoo Atlanta has a great resource for studying gorilla behavior. Dedicated researchers conduct daily observations of each group, allowing Zoo Atlanta to better care for gorillas here as well as compare data to research of gorillas in the wild.
When venturing into The Ford Willie B. Gorilla Conservation Center, guests are treated to a view of our family troop. Currently consisting of 10 gorillas, the family troop is the Zoo’s largest group of gorillas. Like gorilla troops in the wild, this troop is headed up by one silverback, Taz. As the leader of the group, Taz is tasked with protecting and policing the other members of the troop, as well as fathering all the offspring. He is joined by four adult females and five young gorillas. Researchers can observe the different types of relationships, mother-infant relationships, play behavior, and more.
In addition to the family troop, Zoo Atlanta is also home to three bachelor groups. These groups consist of two or three similarly-aged male gorillas. It was once believed that silverbacks could not effectively live together in zoos, and therefore males were kept solitary. Research has since discovered that males in the wild would often come together and form bachelor groups after leaving their birth groups and before forming family troops of their own. Zoo Atlanta was an early leader in forming successful bachelor groups. Kekla, Stadi and Charlie have been together for over 15 years and can be found hanging out in Habitat 1.
Our last social pairing is made up of two very special gorillas, Ozzie and Choomba. In the wild, gorillas typically live between 30 and 35 years. Due to extensive research, advancement in care, and access to regular vet care, gorillas in zoological settings can live well into their 40s. Ozzie and Choomba are both over the age of 50. At 57, Ozzie is the oldest living male gorilla in the world! Researchers can focus on habitat use and mobility to help Zoo Atlanta provide the best care possible as these gorillas age. Ozzie can often be found lying on a bed of hay in the center of Habitat 2, while Choomba prefers to rest closer to the front of the habitat.
With such a large population and variety of ages and groups, there is always something to see in The Ford African Rain Forest gorilla habitats. Guests are encouraged to come and observe the bevy of behaviors that our gorillas display daily.