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Western Lowland Gorilla Zahra:
One Year Update

Gorilla Zahra
Photo by Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Posted June 2019

June 13th marks one year since 1 ½- year-old female western lowland gorilla Zahra’s transfer from the Milwaukee County Zoo to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, where she continues to flourish in her new home. At Columbus, she joined Mac’s troop, which includes females Toni, Kinyani, Mo’Ana, Tabibu and Kamina, and males Mac, Kamoli, and JJ. Zahra has adjusted well to her new troop, and they have embraced her as one of their own.

Born at the Milwaukee County Zoo on Sept. 9, 2017, Zahra was transferred to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium after her parents, Naku and Cassius, passed away unexpectedly. Her move to the Columbus Zoo was recommended by the Gorilla SSP® (Species Survival Plan) based on the Columbus Zoo’s well-known reputation for surrogate-raising gorillas and its existing stable family unit.

Toni acts as Zahra’s surrogate mother, as hoped, and they continue to have a strong bond. She spends a lot of time near Toni; however, she enjoys venturing off to play with her older “siblings,” too.

Gorilla Zahra
Photo by Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

She also seems to have bonded with her surrogate father, Mac, who is gentle and patient with her. Caregivers report Zahra and her siblings have quickly learned that Mac lets them get away with more than the others, so they like to play around him and try to steal his food. Zahra and her “sister,” Kamina, are still getting along well. Kamina enjoys carrying Zahra around on her stomach or back, and they both like playing with their other siblings.

Kamina has also taught Zahra how to master interaction with enrichment materials. Zahra enjoys puzzle feeders, small enrichment items or toys that she can push around, paper that she can jump around in, and boomer balls that she can try to carry or kick around the exhibit. Zahra is a great eater; she especially enjoys vegetables and popcorn.

The zookeepers at the Columbus Zoo describe Zahra as “very fluffy,” and, of course, “very cute!” She is more timid than the other youngsters, but keepers comment she has some sass, too. For example, she coughs at maintenance staff when they walk by and at the older gorilla siblings when they try to take her food, even though she is the smallest gorilla in the troop.

Overall, Zahra is a well-adjusted member of the troop and is becoming more independent every day. The Columbus Zoo staff report that she has been a great addition to their gorilla family, and that they’ve enjoyed watching the young gorillas grow up together.