In June I was in Atlanta, Georgia to attend some meetings of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) program, as well as the 2014 International Gorilla Workshop (IGW) hosted by Zoo Atlanta. In between the meetings I was able to squeeze in a visit (with other IGW attendees) to the Dewar Wildlife Trust facility (formerly Gorilla Haven), an amazing AZA accredited facility about 2 hours from Atlanta in North Georgia. Here is the first installment of some highlights of my interactions with other gorilla experts and facilities.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Western Lowland Gorilla SSP formally meets twice a year to discuss the current state of affairs in the captive gorilla population for North America (350 gorillas in AZA zoos), evaluate past recommendations for captive care and management, as well as plan future management strategy. The management group is comprised of 11 representatives; each elected to represented 4-5 zoos each, so all 50 AZA zoos with gorillas will have input to the group.
There are also a number of expert advisors (groups and individuals) that help the committee with their role. These areas include veterinary care, behavior, population management, nutrition, research, conservation and reproduction. I was one of the founding members of the Gorilla Behavior Advisory Group in the 1980’s, and was the first Education Advisor for the Gorilla SSP in the late 1990’s.
I was invited to give a presentation to the SSP management committee to bring them up to date on what has been happening at the Gorilla Foundation over the past several years. My talk included information about our facilities, and our current and future goals for research and gorilla management. I also spoke with them about the role Koko and TGF could play in the SSP, with a particular emphasis on conservation education.
Some of the more interesting findings from this year’s meeting were:
1) The mean life expectancy of males in the SSP population is 31 years old and 37 years old for females.
2) The longevity record for females in captivity is 58 years and counting for Colo at the Columbus Zoo, and a record of 54 years for males (estimated age for wild-born Massa at the Philadelphia Zoo, who died in 1984). The current oldest male is Ozzie at Zoo Atlanta, who is 51 years old.
3) There were 10 live births in 2013 (6 females, 4 males), one stillbirth and 6 deaths, (4 males and 2 females).
4) There were 18 transfers of gorillas between institutions in 2013, and 57 since 2009.
5) For more information, visit the Gorilla SSP’s website: gorillassp.org.
Blog by Dr. Ken Gold Managing Director of Gorilla Care and Research
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