Hi Everyone! My name is Kristen, and I’m the primary gorilla keeper at Philadelphia Zoo. 2015 is the Year of the Gorilla here at the Zoo, and as part of the celebration, we’ll be talking about the five gorillas that call PECO Primate Reserve home.
We’ll be highlighting each of our individual gorillas over the next few weeks so that you can get to know them better. Our family group is led by Motuba, who resides full time with our females, Honi and Kira. Louis and Kuchimba are our two younger boys, who we often refer to as “the bachelors.” You may catch them on exhibit together or you might happen to see them by themselves,depending on the day.
This week, I’d like to introduce to you Motuba. The newest addition to our gorilla troop, Motuba is a 30-year-old, 430-pound silverback. He is easy to recognize because he is by far the largest gorilla in his group and, as the term “silverback” implies, he has silver hair on his back and thighs. This, coupled with the prominent crest on the top of his head, is a sign of sexual maturity in males. He can almost always be found somewhere on the ground, as the larger males tend to be more ground-dwelling while the females take to the trees (or scaffolding and shelves when they're indoors at the Zoo)
Motuba is laid-back and friendly, but he does take awhile to warm up to his keepers. He’s only been at Philadelphia Zoo for a little over a year now, so he and I are actually still working on our relationship. An example of this is that sometimes he is hesitant to participate in a training session. The other gorillas that I have known for years are always eager to train. I make a point every day to spend some quality one-on-one time with him to continue to build our relationship.
Overall though, Motuba's a total sweetheart. Despite his large size, I actually find Motuba to be much less intimidating than you’d expect. Motuba’s here on a breeding recommendation from the Species Survival Plan, so we hope that he’ll be a dad sometime in the foreseeable future!
By Kristen Farley-Rambo, Primary Gorilla Keeper