Gorilla meetings in Dja Reserve

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  12. 11. 2022

On Monday in the early evening, I popped in to the Dja Reserve again. Three gorillas were sitting side by side under the window to the enclosure: Kisumu, the male that we had brought from Austria two months ago, Moja’s daughter Duni, who had arrived from Spain a week after Kisumu, and Shinda, one of the three females from our original group. It was almost idyllic, and if someone had told me that just seven hours after joining two groups of gorillas, I would see such an image, I would have taken them to be a fantasist. But, of course, it wasn’t a complete idyll. You could sense that there was tension between the four original gorillas and the two new arrivals. After a moment, Kamba, the oldest of the females, approached the seated trio and bared her teeth at Kisumu. He dashed towards her wildly, narrowly missing her in his run and took up an imposing stance whilst he beat his chest. When he returned to the window, I had the impression that Duni tried to console him.

Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo

We were somewhat in awe, if not quite worried, about combining the gorillas. It could just as easily have ended in bloody gashes – and that wouldn’t necessarily have been the worst outcome. But maybe we should have trusted Kisumu more. Although he alarmed us with his reactions on the first day after arriving in Prague, his meeting with Duni went very well indeed. They became an inseparable pair. There were also mating attempts, and when Duni came into heat, it all got rather intense. Still, we saw two gorillas meeting as something very different from six gorillas forming a group.

Kisumu and Duni repeatedly went round the large exhibition where they were to meet Kamba, Kijivu, Shinda and little Ajabu. They also entered it at half past nine on Monday morning. Only this time we let the original four gorillas in after a while. It didn’t take long for confrontations to break out. Kamba was the one who tried to assert herself the most against Kisumu, and she also provoked the very first chase. Surprisingly, the initiative was soon taken by the “teenager” Ajabu, who, feeling that he had the backing of the three original females, provoked Kisumu and even pulled his fur. As for Kisumu’s reaction to the females, but also to the fur pulling – how to put it? Defensive? Cowardly? Diplomatic? Let’s say diplomatic. It went on for some time, then he caught sight of a lens behind the glass, and suddenly took up a threatening stance – and thus began the change in his approach and the building of his position.

I briefly described what it looked like in the pavilion on Monday evening in the introduction. I should add that by then it was as though Ajabu had left the pavilion.

On Tuesday morning Kisumu mated first with Shinda and then with Kijivu. And if a visitor who was unaware of the situation had gone to the Dja Reserve on, say, Wednesday morning, they would probably have got the impression that the group of six gorillas had been living together for months.