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First gorilla born in Euro­pean zoo turns 55 at Basel Zoo

pub­lished 11 Octo­ber 2014 | mod­i­fied 11 Octo­ber 2014

Last month, on 23rd Sep­tem­ber to be exact, Basel Zoo’s celebrity gorilla Goma turned 55. This grand old gorilla lady can look back at an extra­or­di­nary life. Goma has been a celebrity since her birth in 1959. She was raised as one of the fam­ily by the zoo direc­tor at the time, Prof. Ernst Lang. As the first gorilla to be born in a Euro­pean zoo, Goma was the favourite of an entire gen­er­a­tion of zoo vis­i­tors. Clearly an elderly now, Goma still lives at Basel Zoo and enjoys good health.

Gorilla Goma Basel zooGoma’s event­ful life has gained a few fur­ther mile­stones in recent years. When Basel’s west­ern low­land gorilla group returned to its newly ren­o­vated mon­key house in 2011 fol­low­ing a year in a tem­po­rary home, she was the first to exam­ine her new sur­round­ings. In Sep­tem­ber 2012, Goma was also the first to con­fi­dently inves­ti­gate the new out­door enclo­sures. On 19th Sep­tem­ber Goma met a new sil­ver­back, M’Tongé, who is 15 years of age. She made it clear to him that a young­ster such as he would have to earn her respect.

Cur­rently, only four goril­las older than Goma can be found liv­ing in a zoo glob­ally. The old­est is the very first gorilla to be born in a zoo, female gorilla Colo in Colum­bus Zoo (USA). Prof. Ernst Lang, who raised Goma with great care as a mem­ber of the fam­ily, con­tin­ues to visit Goma. He lives in Basel and cel­e­brated his 100th birth­day on 16th Octo­ber 2013.

Goma’s event­ful life, a brief video biog­ra­phy (text in German):

(Source: Zoo Basel YouTube channel)

An extra­or­di­nary CV
Goma’s birth and early years were heav­ily reported in the world­wide media of the time. At the age of around one, Goma gained the com­pany of Pepe (who was the same age). The pair were later brought back to her hered­i­tary fam­ily group. Goma raised her son Tam­tam, born in 1971, with­out human help, once again bring­ing her to inter­na­tional atten­tion: Tam­tam was the first second-​generation zoo gorilla and the first baby gorilla to grow up in a zoo from birth in the com­pany of a sil­ver­back. He was to remain Goma’s only child. Due to her extra­or­di­nary child­hood, Goma still bonds with humans and has thus remained an out­sider in her group. Goma has only begun to inte­grate increas­ingly into fam­ily life over the last few years.

Goma cel­e­brated her fifty-​fifth birth­day with the five other goril­las of the Basel group, sil­ver­back M’Tongé (15), her sis­ter Quarta (45), Fad­dama (3), Joas (24) and Zungu (11).

Goril­las in the wild
The West­ern low­land gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is listed since 2007 as Crit­i­cally Endan­gered by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species™. The gorilla pop­u­la­tion is threat­ened by high lev­els of hunting/​poaching (e.g. for bush­meat), dis­ease induced mor­tal­ity (espe­cially ebola) and habi­tat loss. Of the three major threats men­tioned, two are man­made. A viable and genet­i­cally diverse pop­u­la­tion of goril­las in zoos is there­fore para­mount to be able to return cap­tive born spec­i­mens into the wild — such as the hand-​reared indi­vid­u­als orig­i­nat­ing from the highly suc­cess­ful cap­tive breed­ing pro­gramme at Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Ani­mal Parks in Kent, UK — and sup­port the sur­vival of this mag­nif­i­cent ape.

(Source: Basel Zoo news, 17.09.2014)

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