You'll often hear us refer to the Gorilla SSP when discussing the management of our gorillas. The Species Survival Plan, or SSP, is an organization that oversees the management of an endangered species in zoos and aquariums. There are SSP programs for a variety of endangered species. The purpose of an SSP is to collaboratively manage a species across multiple institutions, primarily to ensure its genetic diversity and survival, but also to promote the well-being of the species.
Every year, a group of zoo professionals led by the SSP Coordinator meets to discuss the current status of the population with regards to its genetic viability. This committee then makes recommendations as to which animals should breed with each other. After the recommendations are made, it's up to the individual institutions to arrange moving the animals in order to set up the breeding pairs (more on this next week).
While managing the breeding of gorillas in zoos is the largest part of the role of the SSP, they also oversee the management of non-breeding mixed-sex and bachelor groups. People often ask if our bachelor male Louis will ever have a mate. The answer is that we don't know. For now, Louis's genes are already well represented in the population. The same is true for Kuchimba. For this reason, the SSP has recommended housing multiple male or "bachelor" groups for these individuals who aren’t recommended to breed. It is always possible, as genes become represented over time, that one of these individuals could become valuable to the population and receive a breeding recommendation in the future.
By Kristen Farley-Rambo, Primary Gorilla Keeper