Lonely Gorillas

Lonely Gorillas

It is a sad situation when we have lonely Gorillas in zoos. Gorillas are not naturally solitary animals. They thrive in company, they are not meant to live alone. It is acceptable perhaps when as one of a pair they have lost a mate and a suitable replacement is not available. Then perhaps a wait of up to a year would be okay but it should not go on for year after year after year. That is wrong. It shows that the system is flawed, that politics is influencing sound humane judgement and proper conservation and species management.

A Gorilla living alone in a United Kingdom zoo would not be allowed. For a start all of the staff within the collection from the bottom to the top would recognise that it was not acceptable, that it was wrong. Failure to rectify the situation by either bringing in a companion animal from elsewhere or sending of the singleton to join other animals elsewhere would mean they would fall foul of the law.

Gorilla group in Howletts Zoo

The Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice states:

There must be:

4. Provision of Opportunity to Express Most Normal Behaviour

4.3 Accommodation should take account of the natural habitat of the species and seek to meet the physiological and psychological needs of the animal.

4.5 Animals of social species should normally be maintained in compatible social groups. They should only be kept isolated for the benefit of the conservation and welfare needs of the group, and where this is not detrimental to the individual specimen.

These three points would be addressed in the Zoo Inspectors Report:

Defra Inspection Report of a single gorilla:

Is each animal provided with an environment well adapted to meet the physical, psychological and social needs of the species to which it belongs?


Does accommodation appear adequately to meet the biological and behavioural needs of the animals?


Where appropriate are animals managed (including accommodation) in a way consistent with the conservation needs of the species?



In short the zoo would have to do something to rectify the situation or face losing its licence. This is common sense and even if there were no laws to address such a situation then The Five Freedoms would govern such an unsatisfactory arrangement.

It is the needs of the Gorilla that should be the primary consideration. Sadly this is not always the case as we saw with the Taiping Four which were moved unnecessarily from South Africa simply to settle political squabbles.

Politics should be kept out. Three lonely Gorillas concern me. They concern me because I have seen them and felt sorry for them. There is a fourth in Brazil which I do not know, I feel just as sorry for.

There are others in other zoos. I show some of them here. Lonely Gorillas, condemned by politics to life in solitary confinement. It can't be right, can it?

Bua Noi in Pata Zoo

I have visited this female Gorilla on a number of occasions. She lives alone in Pata Zoo on the top of a shopping complex in Bangkok, Thailand. She is a much loved animal and her keeper certainly cares a lot about her.

She has lived alone for MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS!

Her accommodation is clean. Husbandry appears to me more than adequate...after all she is still alive but this is no place for her. She needs more space, fresh air....and companionship!

She is the only Gorilla in Thailand. Perhaps if there was a chance of a companion for her there may be new accommodation out of the city.

All Alone in Pata Zoo

Polo in Mysore Zoo

Polo was wild born in Cameroon circa 1972 and was sent to Mysore as a companion for the female 'Sumathi' back in 1995. Sadly she died in 2000 and the unfortunate 'Polo' has been alone ever since.

Mysore have tried in vain to get a companion for Polo ever since but have failed. Polo is in good health, the enclosure is attractive, well maintained and suitable for Gorillas. As the only Gorilla in India it is understandable that they do not want to send him away.

Polo the lonely Gorilla in Mysore Zoo


Lady in Al Ain Wildlife Park and Zoo

'Lady' in Al Ain Zoo in the United Arab Emirates was wild born and arrived in the zoo as an infant around 1975 as a companion for the young male 'Maxi'.

'Maxi' died in 1998. 'Lady' has been alone ever since!

Lady - Lonely Gorilla in Al Ain zoo



Idi in Belo Horizonte in Brazil

'Idi' in Belo Horizonte Zoo in Brazil was wild born in circa 1973. Originally paired up with a female 'Dada' who died in 1978. Idi has been living alone ever since! That is a frightingly long time.

'Idi' is the only one of these four lonely Gorillas I have not seen. Again we have the 'only'. Here 'Idi' is the only Gorilla in Brazil. The little bit of video footage you see below suggests a green enclosure. Obviously because of the fact that he is healthy and has lived in the zoo for so long the zoo know more than a little about keeping Gorillas

Idi the Gorilla

Toni in Kiev Zoo

Toni was born in Nuremberg in 1974 and arrived in Kiev in September 1999 as a mate to the female Dora. Dora died back in 2004. Toni has been living alone ever since.


Photo by Anna Westbury
Photo by Anna Westbury

Arila in Zacango Zoo in Mexico

Arila was wild born circa 1982. Female. Living alone since her mate ‘King’ died in December 1992


Bantu in Mexico City

Bantu was born in the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City in September 1991. His wild born mother 'Mahari' died in November 2002.

Bantu lives just an hours drive from Zacango Zoo where the lonely female 'Arila' sits and wonders what it is all about.

Bantu in Chapultepec Zoo (Mexico City)

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Comments 28 comments

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Hello Peter, are there any sections missing? At any rate this is a heart-breaking but much needed expose'. Gorillas are very close to humans in their feelings & emotions. I don't plug reads but in this case I will. Anyone who wants to know how close should look into a new one called- The Moral Life of Animals- Another fine fauna & zoo article Peter, thank you.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thanks Alastar. No there are no sections missing. I had thought to include an ending statement offering a solution but there isn't just one. There are Gorillas 'available' which could go to Al Ain and Mysore but the powers that be will not allow it for reasons of their own (it would be nice if they were made common knowledge). Al Ain is more likely to get a companion animal than Mysore right now because Al Ain is politically stronger....though Mysore facilities are better.

No-one is going to help the Pata Zoo Gorilla and sadly Thai animal law is very lacking. Too many dysfunctional zoos in Thailand getting away with far too much.

I am not going to hold my breath for any noble gesture to be made. The situation is both tragic and wrong. Today (not mentioned here) the finest Gorilla enclosure I have seen anywhere holds just one lonely Gorilla.

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Its very sad to see these lonely gorillas, and I'm glad that they do not allow it in the UK. Politics should never intrude into animal welfare; gorillas are social primates and need company to have a happy life. It is the same when people buy monkeys as pets. Many of these monkeys would live in family groups in the wild, and it is cruel to keep them as solitary animals (though I have to say that I am against keeping all wild animals as pets - if you want a pet get a kitten or a rabbit!)

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

CMHypno - I agree. Monkeys should never be kept as pets.

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

I know a lady & family with Monkeys that are not pets but family members and they are given a most loving and well cared for life- this person is not alone in her love and care-taking. Their favorite movies are the Shrek series and when the lady makes cupcakes the Monkeys will start to clap while looking back and forth at her making them and the movie. The reason I brought this up is Peta of all org. is trying to snatch these family members and put them god knows were. These folks have large followings on FB- everyone including the Monkeys benefit from this. I know there are cases were it would be proper to have them removed but this is by no means uniform. Peter you & CM are intelligent men: I respect both of you highly but felt compelled to point this out.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

Alastar - I am definitely not a PETA fan and am against a lot of what they have to say but I am against monkeys being brought up as human family members. I don't doubt they are loved but that is not the point. Monkeys should be just what they are...monkeys and not someones surrogate children or similar. Big subject...maybe I will write about it one day.

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

If they could remain wild & protected would agree 100%. For the ones well established in loving homes- in many cases for double digit years- my feelings are it wouldn't be humane or rational for all concerned to have them removed. We'll just agree to disagree on this one & I do hope we remain friends. Thank you so much again Peter for all you do.

Alladream74 profile image

Alladream74 5 years ago from Oakland, California

Very sad.All for our entertainment

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

I agree with all you say there Alastar. Yes they should be in the wild and protected AND it would be wrong to have them removed where they have been for double diget years....as long as no more were broght in to replace them once they passed on.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

Alladream74 - No not always for entertainment. Sometimes for education, conservation etc. Sadly when they are held singly they give out the wrong message.

Alladream74 profile image

Alladream74 5 years ago from Oakland, California

Yes you are right on that

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Thanks Peter, were on the same page again as it should be.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a heartbreaking hub. I find the photo of Lady particularly pathetic. It looks like she is sitting because there is nothing else to do. The bare sand around her looks very depressing. It's frightening how long some of the gorillas that you describe have lived alone. For such intelligent and social animals this is a terrible fate.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

AliciaC - It is both sad and disturbing. Don't go too much on photos though. A photograph taken in a certain way can often give the wrong impression. Maybe she has more to do off camera.

dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

agusfanani profile image

agusfanani 5 years ago from Indonesia

Yes Gorilla should be treated like what I saw at Schmutser Primate Center at Ragunan Zoo, Jakarta, where they were kept together with its peers so that they feel(more or less) like in their habitat.

BabyCheetah profile image

BabyCheetah 5 years ago from Melbourne

Quite sad. At Melbourne Zoo we have a few gorillas in a nice big natural enclosure but we did have one solitary male named Rigo who was not with the group, there were reasons though that I can't recall :(

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@dallas93444 - Thanks for reading.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@agusfanani - I agree, the Gorilla enclosure in Ragunan is probably the best in the world. Sadly I believe the situation has changed (unless someone telly me different) and there is now only a single Gorilla living there today...Sad.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@BabyCheetah - Yes, sometimes males get kicked out of family groups but in nature would go and live with other bachelor males. Nothing wrong with same sex groups but alone is not so good.

andrebreynolds profile image

andrebreynolds 5 years ago

Nice and interesting article. Thanks for posting.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

andrebreynolds - Thank you

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

What can be done, especially for the two gorillas so close to one another in Mexico? Maybe some of these zookeepers should live lone and see how they like it, day after day, with nobody to talk with. I'm surprised that it doesn't kill these wonderful animals to be so deprived.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 4 years ago from South East Asia Author

They won't be so lonely. They will have good relationships with their keepers....but it is politics and one upmanship that stands in the way....never a good thing.

awhiteunicorn profile image

awhiteunicorn 3 years ago

Went to the zoo in Taipei, Taiwan today. There is a gorrilla there too that is all alone. What cruel and unusual punishment. Ruined my zoo trip to look into that animals eyes and see loneliness.


John Safkow profile image

John Safkow 2 years ago from Oakland, California

Ndume, Koko's non-companion was sent to the Gorilla Foundation more than 20 years ago and has been kept separated from Koko for several years. He's kept in a secluded trailer with limited access to an outside enclosure. http://johnnysafkow.com/2014/02/08/gorilla-mountai...

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 2 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thank you John Safkow. I found your blog very interesting. Linked to it on Facebook ZooNews Digest.

balancingscooter profile image

balancingscooter 14 months ago from Poland

Thanks for an interesting article. It is a shame for Lonely Gorillas :(

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