Image: Jo-Ellen Toler. Saint Louis Zoo

Gorilla Swap Aids Conservation of Species

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: February 8, 2023 7:22 am

Saint Louis Zoo and Brookfield Zoo have worked together on a swap of two of their male gorillas placing one in a potential breeding situation to grow the population of this threatened species.  

26-year-old Jontu of Saint Louis Zoo and 7-year-old Zachary of Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois recently made the moves to their new homes. At present the gorillas are spending time in private areas at their new homes where they can settle in before going on view to guests.

Jontu made his move to Brookfield Zoo on the advice of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for western lowland gorillas. This program works to ensure genetic diversity within the captive population of gorillas. At Brookfield Zoo Jontu will lead a group of females and provide stability for the troop.

Saint Louis Zoo had been home to Jontu since he made the move from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio during 2005. He was born in 1997. During his time in Saint Louis he became known as a leader in the bachelor group.

“Jontu is well known at the Saint Louis Zoo for his regal appearance and confidence as a leader in the bachelor group,” said Helen Boostrom, Zoological Manager of Primates, Saint Louis Zoo. “Despite his stature and serious demeanor, he has a very playful and gentle side. The primate care team is going to miss him greatly, but is very excited for this new chapter in his life.”

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Zachary is coming to Saint Louis Zoo to join the bachelor group which Jontu had been leading. He was born at Brookfield Zoo during 2015 where he lived with his troop in the Tropic World habitat.

These moves mimic the natural progression of gorillas through troops throughout their life. After birth they remain with their troop. As they begin to sexually mature they leave their troop and join other males in bachelor groups where they can develop the skills necessary to lead their own troop as they mature to become a silverback.

Saint Louis Zoo have long supported gorilla conservation through participation in the gorilla SSP. They pioneered the formation of gorilla bachelor groups in captivity and completed the first successful integration of two bachelor groups of gorillas.

Despite being the most common species of gorilla the Western lowland gorilla is still critically endangered.

western lowland gorilla

More about Gorillas!

Each day the western lowland gorilla will create a nest where they can take a midday nap. Find out more of their behaviors with our fact file.

Our Favourite Gorilla Fact!

Western lowland gorillas are very intelligent. They make a range of tools which simplify their foraging process. One famous gorilla, Koko managed to learn 1,000 signs and communicate with her carers.

Image: Jim Schulz CZS-Brookfield Zoo

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