Last chance to see three of zoo’s male gorillas

04/12/2013 10:11 AM

04/12/2013 8:42 PM

Wave goodbye to Jabir, Samson and Virgil.

This weekend is the last chance to see the three western lowland gorillas at the Sedgwick County Zoo.

They’re headed to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minn., which is opening an $11 million gorilla habitat in June. That zoo had one male gorilla and received three females recently.

“We’re ready and excited to open our exhibit with seven gorillas,” said Matt Reinartz, spokesman for the Como Park Zoo. “I’m sure plenty of people in Minnesota have been waiting for it as well.”

The Sedgwick County Zoo still will have Barney, Billy, Matt, Shango, Tommy and Zuza, all males. Joining them soon will be Kivu, an older female gorilla from Philadelphia expected to be moved to Wichita in May. The zoo also is working to import another female gorilla from Calgary who could arrive as early as this fall.

The hope is that Kivu will mate with Matt.

All the moves are part of breeding recommendations by the Species Survival Plan, a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that aims to ensure that threatened and endangered species survive.

Gorillas are in a “green” Species Survival Plan. Animals in green plans are considered the most sustainable over time.

Coordinators of plans make recommendations for moves between zoos to, among other reasons, encourage breeding.

There are 342 western lowland gorillas at 53 zoos across the country.

Jabir, Samson and Virgil all came to Wichita from the Oklahoma City Zoo, said Melissa Graham, spokeswoman for the Sedgwick County Zoo.

Jabir arrived in 2004 for the opening of the Downing Gorilla Forest.

Samson and Virgil came to the zoo in 2005. They are half-brothers to Jabir and Matt. Tommy and Billy are brothers. Zuza was born at the Brookfield Zoo, Graham said, and came to Wichita from the Cincinnati Zoo three years ago.

Jabir is 13, and Samson and Virgil are 14.

They will be traveling over the road to their new home.

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