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Guess who’s who?

Hello everyone, my name is Sam and I am the newest member of the Primate Team here at Zoo Atlanta. I started at Zoo Atlanta in July 2019 as a seasonal keeper in carnivores. I worked with our tigers, lions, sun bears, clouded leopard, fossa, tanukis, and binturongs.  Before my seasonal position, I did multiple internships working with a wide variety of animals, including hoofstock, marine mammals, elephants, birds, and reptiles. In March, I was given some great news – that I would be joining the Primate Team as a full-time keeper. Then COVID-19 happened, and since I was already familiar with the carnivore area and knew that routine, I stayed to help them when our animal departments split up into two separate shifts.  However, I have now arrived at the Primate Department and am excited to finally be joining the team, mostly because I have always wanted to work with gorillas!

One of the first things we need to learn in the gorilla department is how to identify each of the 16 gorillas who call Zoo Atlanta home. Zoo Atlanta has four separate groups of gorillas. We have two bachelor troops, a geriatric troop, and a family troop. 

One of our bachelor troops includes Willie B., Jr., the only son of the famous late Willie B. You can usually spot him on Habitat 4, which can be seen behind Habitat 3 from the viewing platform. He is easily identified by his larger-than-usual sagittal crest running along the top of his head. 

Our other bachelor troop has three individuals: Kekla, Stadi, and Charlie. They can be found in Habitat 1. Charlie is the largest gorilla out of all 16, weighing in at over 400 pounds. Charlie’s head is more cone-shaped and red at the top. Kekla looks like he has the largest forearms because they are extremely hairy. Stadi looks like a spitting image of his father Ozzie. He always has his tough face on.     
Our geriatric troop, who you can find on Habitat 2, include Ozzie, Choomba, and Kuchi. Ozzie is the silverback of this troop and he is much larger than the females. If you look closely at Kuchi’s face, you can see she has pink on her bottom lip, whereas Choomba does not. Choomba can be described as having a “bulldog” looking face, meaning it is very short and stout.

Our family troop has nine gorillas and can be found on Habitat 3. This troop is usually the hardest to identify each individual. The troop can be broken down into four different groups: silverback, adult females, juveniles, and the young children. Taz is the silverback of this family troop. He is one of the easier ones to tell apart in this group because he is the only adult male and is easily the largest individual in the troop. The next grouping to tell apart is the adult females Lulu, Kudzoo, and Sukari. They are some of the larger gorillas in this group, but not as large as Taz.  Sukari can be spotted by the pink on her lower lip. Sukari in Kiswahili means “sugar,” so it helps me remember that Sukari looks like she has some pink sugar on her lower lip. Kudzoo is the largest of the females. Kudzoo is also the most dominant female. Currently, Lulu is easy to identify because wherever she is often found wrangling her baby, Floyd. The juveniles include Andi, Anaka, and Merry. Anaka has white and pink pigment on her fingers as well as gray sideburns around her face. Merry has the “roundest” face between all the younger females. Andi is smaller and slimmer than Anaka and Merry. She also has a darker coat. Lastly, there are two young kids in our family group, Mijadala and Floyd. Mijadala is Kudzoo’s daughter. She is often seen running around or playing with Floyd. Floyd is the newest member of our family troop. He recently celebrated his first birthday in July. When he is not playing in the wood wool, he can be found near Lulu.

Now many of these ways I’ve noted are mainly physical attributes, but many of my fellow coworkers, who have worked alongside the gorillas for a while, can tell them apart by their dispositions or personalities. Next time you pass by the gorillas here at Zoo Atlanta, see if you can tell them all apart from one another.

Sam D.
Keeper I, Primates

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