Photo by Jamie Pham

Ndjia, Female Western Lowland Gorilla

The Los Angeles Zoo is happy to welcome 24-year-old, female western lowland gorilla, Ndjia (In-gee-uh), who made the short move to L.A. from the San Diego Zoo on May 9. Ndjia has been paired with the Zoo’s male silverback gorilla, Kelly, through a Species Survival Plan (SSP) program that breeds western lowland gorillas in order to ensure the survival of a species that is considered critically endangered in the wild. Ndjia was slowly introduced to her new family, and she quickly made a place for herself with the other members, Kelly (31), Rapunzel (24), and Evelyn (42).

“What a spitfire!” said Nancy Bunn, senior animal keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Ndjia may be smaller than the others, but she sure has spunk. In the short time that Ndjia has joined us, she quickly learned to navigate her way within this family group. I believe her captivating personality, along with the other gorillas, is sure to engage visitors and ultimately ignite a desire to learn more about their conservation story in the wild.”

This move has allowed Ndjia to be placed in a breeding situation for the first time in her life, and it is the Zoo’s hope that Ndjia and the group’s male, Kelly, will take a liking to each other. Potential offspring from this genetically valuable pair could go a long way in educating people on a species that is currently considered critically endangered due to illegal hunting, disease such as the Ebola virus, and habitat degradation and destruction. Despite the fact that all killing, capture, and consumption of great apes is illegal, hunting for bush meat is the primary reason for the Western gorilla’s decline.

The L.A. Zoo furthers its commitment to gorillas in the wild and encourages guests to participate in gorilla conservation through its on-site cell phone recycling program. The Zoo partnered with a company called Eco-Cell in 2009 and installed a collection bin near the Zoo entrance that collects guest’s old and unused cell phones. Coltan, one of the components used in manufacturing cell phones (and many other electronic gadgets) is mined from the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is prime habitat for gorillas and other endangered species. The mining process destroys the forest, leaving the animals homeless and vulnerable to poachers. Guests can do their part in lessening coltan mining in the wild by recycling and reusing old cell phones.

Western lowland gorillas are native to the lowlands and swamp forests of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and Angola. These peaceful animals are social and live in stable, cohesive groups composed of one silverback adult male, several adult females, and their offspring. Guests can now visit Ndjia and the rest of the group at the Campo Gorilla Reserve exhibit daily, weather permitting.