German gorilla gets a mate in South Africa

20th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

20 January 2005, JOHANNESBURG - Makoko, the German gorilla, will be introduced to his prospective African bride on 14 February - Valentine's Day, his keepers at the Johannesburg Zoo said on Thursday. Strutting back and forth in his new enclosure, Makoko appeared bored and restless on Thursday, but nevertheless struck brief poses in the light drizzle for curious journalists and officials at the facility. The large 19-year-old silverback brought from Germany's Munster Zoo in November moved between his concre

20 January 2005

JOHANNESBURG - Makoko, the German gorilla, will be introduced to his prospective African bride on 14 February - Valentine's Day, his keepers at the Johannesburg Zoo said on Thursday.

Strutting back and forth in his new enclosure, Makoko appeared bored and restless on Thursday, but nevertheless struck brief poses in the light drizzle for curious journalists and officials at the facility.

The large 19-year-old silverback brought from Germany's Munster Zoo in November moved between his concrete den and the larger outdoor area, occasionally stopping to drag something along.

In the den next door, Lisa, the female gorilla that he is expected to meet and hopefully develop some affection for in the coming months, sat quietly.

"He has settled down very well," the facility's primate expert, Phillip Cronje told journalists. Cronje was one of only two people allowed access to the animal during its 45 day quarantined period which ended on Thursday.

Makoko, he says, makes "laughing" sounds, appears not to like loud noise and likes to bounce the red and blue balls he has been given for entertainment during meals.

"After half an hour it can be quite annoying, but that's what gorillas are about," he says. Cronje laughs when he admits that Makoko now being allowed to see other people brought some relief "for both of us".

Cronje, like a proud father, boasts how Makoko learned to peel his own bananas in Africa. "At the zoo in Munster, they would peel it for him. He has gone from this to peeling it himself".

Makoko and Lisa have observed each other via a mirror. Soon they will be allowed limited contact, their reactions closely observed by primate experts before they are allowed to share the zoo's gorilla enclosure on 14 February, said Cronje.

Hopeful South African journalists on Thursday began referring to Makoko as Lisa's "German Toyboy".

"He has been aware that there is a female in the building. Lisa seems to have calmed down quite a bit since he arrived," Cronje told Deutsche Presse Agentur dpa.

Given the large age gap between the two animals - Lisa is 33 years old - there is "only a slight chance that they will breed," he says.

Lisa lost her mate Max, South Africa's world renowned "crime- fighting" gorilla, to old age last May. Max made world headlines in 1997 when he attacked a burglar who landed in his enclosure while fleeing police. During the ensuing scuffle the gorilla was shot twice but survived.

Hopes that he and Lisa would breed - speculation that she was pregnant at one stage caused wide public delight - were dashed when it emerged that Max was sterile.

"The next step is to introduce Makoko and Lisa. Whether they will actually mate, we don't know. Age is against her," says Cronje.

However, zoo officials hoped that Makoko would prove an incentive for younger female gorillas to be transferred to the zoo.

"Lisa would then take on the role of a granny, or matriarch," Cronje suggests. Lisa arrived in South Africa in 1991 from the Moscow zoo where she had been kept for 20 years as an indoor exhibit.

Despite the slim chance of romance between Makoko and Lisa, African tradition dictates "Lobola" be paid to compensate the bride's family for her hand in marriage.

DPA

Subject: German news

 

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