I was staring down at our new silverback gorilla, Subira, who just joined us at the Dallas zoo from a zoo in Canada when a family walked onto the viewing platform. This cute clan consisted of two little girls probably 10 and 8 years old and a boy around 6. They were beautiful kids with shiny blond hair, clear twinkling eyes and mischievous grins. Mom was very pretty and chatty, probably late 30’s and Dad seemed very reserved.
“There are three females and a new silverback in here,” I said. “He’s only been at the Dallas zoo for 3 weeks. We got him from the Toronto zoo. This is called a troop and is how gorillas normally live in the wild with one silverback, several females called a harem, and all of the silverback’s offspring with all the females. We eventually would like to see Subira mate with Megan, our youngest female in here and have a baby!
“That’s awesome!” mom exclaimed. “How are they doing together?”
“Pretty well,” I said. “It took some adjustment since it’s now an entirely new world for all of them. He’s coming on a little stronger than he needs to in establishing his dominance and the girls are pushing back on him more than is normal but the gorilla keepers are optimistic. In the gorilla world, the silverback protects the troop and calls the shots; when to eat, when to nest, when to move on; he’s the boss and females normally go with it, in the wild it’s all they know. But these girls are not in the wild and are still getting used to him since until 3 weeks ago, this was an all girl habitat and Madge was the dominant female.”
“What made Madge the dominant one?” she asked.
“Well,” I said, “Madge is the oldest and the biggest and is the mother to Shanta. Megan is relatively new here, joining us about 9 months ago. Madge and Shanta have never really accepted Megan and have treated her poorly and shunned her. It’s been kind-a gut wrenching. However, the minute you put a Silverback in with bickering females the bickering stops immediately. He just won’t allow it.”
“We need a silverback!!” the little boy shouted.
I couldn’t help myself and I burst out laughing while dad’s face flushed.
“Jake!” mom said, “We have a silverback!”
“Where!?” Jake asked excitedly.
“Dad!” mom said, “Dad’s our silverback! Dad’s our silverback, Jake!”
Dad then started moving the family on it’s way like a good silverback. Mom looked back at me, rolled her eyes and under her breath said, “From the mouths of babes….”