Can Get-Away Reform a Cranky Gorilla?
Laurie Holloway, Dallas Zoological Society
Patrick, a 430-pound male gorilla, doesn't get along with others of his kind.
May 9, 2012 -
"Santino," a male chimpanzee at Furuvik Zoo in Sweden, is devising increasingly complex attacks against zoo visitors. Here, he postures, looking tough, in front of zoo visitors.
At first Santino was famous for throwing rocks and other projectiles at visitors who annoyed him. Now he has improved his technique.
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Here's where Santino has hidden his rock and projectile stashes.
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After a visitor group had left the compound area, researchers watched as Santino went inside and brought out this heap of hay and placed it near the visitor's section. Then he stashed stones under the pile.
Santino playing with little Selma, the youngest chimp in the exhibit at Furuvik Zoo in Sweden.
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After observing the chimp for days, the scientists also suspect that Santino just also "finds it fun" to bug humans.
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Patrick, a 430-pound male gorilla that dislikes other gorillas but is comfortable around humans, is going to receive 6 months of a kind of gorilla therapy in hopes that he will learn to appreciate his own kind.
The regal 23-year-old silverback, a popular resident at the Dallas Zoo, will soon be moving to the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina. Patrick's plight went viral this week, with stories calling him "sexist," dangerous and in need of therapy.
All of that is simply wrong, according to Laurie Holloway, director of communications and social media at the Dallas Zoological Society.
"Patrick is a super cool dude who is remarkably personable, accommodating and highly intelligent," Holloway told Discovery News. "He can go wherever he wants to in his large exhibit, but he's usually out front interacting with visitors."
Just this week she was with him at a medical exam. Trainers previously taught Patrick to present various parts of his body in front of a screen so that a veterinarian could examine him.
Holloway said, "He spent at least 45 minutes standing in certain ways, touching parts of his body as instructed and more, and all with incredible patience. This is a very remarkable, smart gorilla."
Zoo-goers have even nicknamed him "Pensive Patrick" because he's often seen deep in thought…when he’s not admiring painted toenails and teaching teenaged bullies a lesson.
Dallas Zoo visitor Carla Bethke shared that when her mom found out about Patrick's painted toenail fetish, "she promptly removed her shoe to show him her toes."
Yet another Dallas Zoo visitor, Christopher Morris, said he'll never forget how Patrick handled a group of teenagers.
"They were yelling at him and banging on the glass, and he just sat there with his back to them," Morris explained. "After about 5 minutes, they gave up and were discussing what animal they would bother next. That's when Patrick turned and banged back on the glass. I swear I saw one or two wet themselves as they fled."
The regal 23-year-old silverback is a popular resident at the Dallas Zoo.Laurie Holloway, Dallas Zoological Society
Patrick's biggest problem now is not teenagers, though; it's other gorillas. He "shoves the boys around and he nips at the girls," Holloway said, adding that, over his 18-year stay at the zoo, caretakers have often tried to get him to socialize with other gorillas.
He tolerates the other gorillas in his large indoor night quarters, but only from the comfort of his private bachelor pad room within the area.
Some media reports have suggested that he seriously hurt other gorillas, but Holloway countered that "no medical care" was ever needed after Patrick displayed annoyance over the other gorillas’ presence.
Lynn Kramer, vice president of animal operations for the Dallas Zoo, said, "It's become clear that he prefers to live a solitary life."
Holloway, Kramer and others suspect that his past is to blame. Born at the Bronx Zoo, Patrick was neglected by his mother and subsequently hand-raised by humans at the Toronto Zoo.
Now it's time for another move, since Dallas Zoo needs to introduce its two newest male gorillas, Shana and Zola, to current male residents B'wenzi and Juba. Together, the males will likely form a cohesive bachelor troop.
Patrick, on the other hand, has about 6 months ahead of him of attempted acclimation and socializing with other gorillas at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. John Davis, curator of mammals at Riverbanks, said that the zoo recently spent several months getting another male gorilla, Ajari, used to his home there "and the introduction process has gone very well."
Patrick will be given the opportunity to smell, see and touch the other gorillas with a protective fence separating the primates, which live to about 50-60 years of age in captivity. Davis and the Dallas Zoo staff hope that a change of scenery and a new bunch of gorillas might stimulate Patrick into changing his ways.
Holloway said, "We have to give him that chance." But she quickly added that, "If he stays the same, that's OK too. A lot of people aren't very social with each other either."