Louis is a favorite among staff, docents and visitors. At 16 years old (he just celebrated an exciting birthday on May 12!), he's one of our silverbacks, and a svelte 450 pounds. Like Motuba, Louis has silver hair on his back and thighs, but his crest is slightly smaller, and his impressive arms are still all black.
Louis can sometimes be seen living by himself, but he also gets together with our younger male, Kuchimba, for regular play dates. Both of the boys derive a huge social benefit from hanging out and playing together, but we manage them carefully so that they don't push each other’s buttons too much! When the boys are together, visitors often think that because of their size difference, Louis is a male and Kuchimba is a female, or that the pair is an adult and child. But just like humans, gorillas come in all different shapes and sizes, and both are within normal size ranges for their ages. While Kuchimba is on the smaller side for male gorillas, Louis has always been big. We often compare them to Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Personally, I think that Louis is the most handsome gorilla I've ever seen! In addition to his good looks (which he got from his mama, Nne, another crowd favorite who moved to a different zoo a few years ago), Louis is also extremely intelligent and motivated to learn, so he's generally eager to participate in training sessions with his keepers. He does get worked up when large groups of people come back into his area for training, so we are working on desensitizing him to having more people around.
Louis likes to show off to visitors and can often be seen charging the glass at them. He loves to get a rise out of people, so the more they react, the more he does it! People are often surprised to hear that despite his appearance of a tough male gorilla, he hates to get wet or for his hands and feet to be dirty! When caught out in a rainstorm, he'll run bipedally across the yard to seek cover, and when he accidentally steps in mud, he'll find a leaf or a paper bag and wipe his hand or foot off until they are clean again.
In fact, you'll notice a fire hose bridge strung from the platform just outside of the shift doors to the log out in the gorilla yard. We put that there for Louis, because that area is prone to flooding and therefore chronically muddy, so that bridge helps Louis to get out without getting too dirty!
By Kristen Farley-Rambo, Primary Gorilla Keeper