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Jasiri the gorilla begins a new chapter

Jasiri, a 21-year-old male western lowland gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta, is ready to begin an exciting new chapter in a new home. Jasiri left Atlanta on June 17, 2019, and is now settling into new surroundings at Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP) recommended that Jasiri move to Calgary Zoo, where he will join a group of females and form his own family group. He was accompanied by members of Zoo Atlanta’s Gorilla Care Team and Veterinary Team.

“Jasiri was born here at Zoo Atlanta, so he is very special to us. While he’ll be missed here, we’re excited for him to have this opportunity to start his own family,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Deputy Director. “Jasiri’s new chapter is a great example of the importance of cooperative programs like SSPs, which are working to maintain healthy and sustaining zoo populations of critically endangered species like the western lowland gorilla.”

In the wild, male gorillas typically leave the groups in which they were born to seek opportunities to form their own groups or to join other males in bachelor groups. Zoo Atlanta was an early leader in the housing of male gorillas in bachelor groups, a social structure which was once thought impossible in zoological settings.

Born June 21, 1998, Jasiri is the son of Ozzie and the late Katoomba. Prior to the Gorilla SSP’s recommendation that he become part of a breeding group, he had lived in a bachelor setting with 21-year-old Willie B., Jr. In an exciting continuation of the legacy of his famous late father, Willie B., Jr. has also been recommended to form his own family group. In coming months, Zoo Atlanta looks forward to welcoming new female gorillas who will be introduced to the young silverback.

Gorilla populations living within AZA-accredited zoos in North America are overseen by the Gorilla SSP, which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse gorilla population for future generations. In addition to making breeding recommendations based on genetic diversity, the Gorilla SSP also exists to ensure that all gorillas in AZA zoos are provided with the social settings which are so important to gorilla well-being.

Western lowland gorilla populations have plummeted in the wild in recent decades as a result of habitat loss, poaching, illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade and emerging diseases. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over a 25-year period, these combined threats have reduced wild populations by 60 percent, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa.

Twenty-three gorillas have been born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest in 1988, and all have been reared in families by their mothers or by a gorilla surrogate. Research by Zoo Atlanta team members has influenced improvements in the care of gorillas throughout the zoological community, as well as enhanced the world’s understanding of gorillas, with more than 100 published papers on maternal care, reproduction, social behavior and cognition. Zoo Atlanta is the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first effort to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos.

Zoo Atlanta is a Platinum Supporter of the AZA Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), a collective effort to preserve wild ape populations and to increase and sustain financial support from zoos for their conservation. For more than 20 years, the Zoo has supported its longtime partner in gorilla conservation, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, by providing pro-bono headquarters space, information technology support and financial resources.

Stay tuned for updates from Jasiri’s new home. Visit zooatlanta.org to learn more about the gorilla program at Zoo Atlanta.

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