A mother and daughter have arrived at Utah’s Hogle Zoo, and they’re going to be staying a while.
Mary, 34, and Pele, 20, are joining the zoo’s western lowland gorilla “troop,” the zoo announced Friday.
The duo were born at a zoo in Brownsville, Texas, but have spent the past 12 years at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. Their move to Salt Lake City was orchestrated to “maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse gorilla population for future generations,” according to a news release from Hogle Zoo.
Western lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered.
Mary and Pele are being quarantined from the other gorillas, although zoo visitors may be able to see them at Hogle’s great apes exhibit.
According to Busch Gardens staffers, Mary has a “pretty solid and confident disposition”; she has given birth to four babies; and she is “all about family — loving, supportive, and steady.” Pele is “an excellent problem solver who loves learning and playing with the younger gorillas.” They enjoy working with trainers and are known for their “happy food songs” — rumbling vocalizations they make when served their favorite meals.
The two new gorillas will join Husani, a 31-year-old male; Jabalie, an 18-year-old female; and Georgia, a female who’s almost 2. According to Hogle, gorillas live in small troops that are led by one mature male and several females — adults, juveniles and infants.
“We are delighted to have two new additions, making our troop five members strong,” said Clair Hallyburton, Hogle Zoo’s associate director of animal care. “Since the loss of Jo Ray K, we are hopeful Mary and Pele will be well embraced by our current troop members.”
Joy Ray K, the matriarch of the Hogle Zoo troop, died in February at the age of 44. The average lifespan for a gorilla in the wild is 35.
Western lowland gorillas are found in southeast Nigeria, Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Gabon, but are threatened by illegal poaching, habitat loss and mining operations.