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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 3:58 pm | Overcast 60º


A New Bachelor Troop of Gorillas Settles in at Santa Barbara Zoo

Two silverbacks are at the stage of their lives between leaving their families and starting their own

Nzinga, 18 years old, is the dominant male of the pair of silverback western lowland gorillas recently brought to the Santa Barbara Zoo. He arrived from Brownsville, Texas with his 12-year-old brother, Bangori. Click to view larger
Nzinga, 18 years old, is the dominant male of the pair of silverback western lowland gorillas recently brought to the Santa Barbara Zoo. He arrived from Brownsville, Texas with his 12-year-old brother, Bangori. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Zoo’s gorilla enclosure is now a revamped bachelor pad.

Nzinga, 18 years old, and his little brother, Bangori, 12, are the zoo’s new bachelor troop, a group of teenage male gorillas who have left their families, but are not yet ready to take over or begin their own family groups.

“In the zoo, we have the same situation,” said Wendy Anderson, a senior mammal keeper with the zoo. “We still have extra boys; They need to be in a bachelor group until they’re chosen to be a breeder male, if they are.”

The two weigh about 350 pounds each, and were born and raised at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas.

Thursday marked their third day in the public eye after undergoing the mandatory 30-day quarantine all new animals at the zoo are subject to.

For now, the brothers are on view between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. — hours that will change as they adapt to their new home.

Prior to Nzinga (pronounced in-ZING-gah) and Bangori (ban-GORE-ee), the zoo was home to two other male gorillas, Goma and Kivu, who left in the spring to join family groups at zoos in Colorado and Arkansas, respectively.

Moving to a new zoo can be tough for gorillas, Anderson told Noozhawk, but, “they’ve adjusted so well and very quickly.”

Nzinga, as the dominant male, has been acclimating to his new environment with territorial displays to guests and zookeepers, while Bangori tends to stay out of his way.

“We do a lot for them because we want to make sure an animal with that type of intelligence is mentally and physically stimulated,” Anderson said.

The gorillas are provided with an array of intellectual stimulants, like televisions for movie-watching, and their enclosures require them to climb around in order to find food and other amenities.

Having the animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo isn’t just important for their maturity and development, Anderson said, but allows them to serve as ambassadors for their brethren in the wild.

Seeing gorillas live and up close, she said, helps drive home to zoo-goers the importance of the conservation issues they face.

Western lowland gorillas like Nzinga and Bangori are critically endangered, and are found in the lowland tropical forests of Central Africa.

According to the zoo, Nzinga is named after a 16th-century Congolese king who fought against slavery, and Bangori is named for a stream in Central Africa.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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