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Lonely Gorillas

Updated on October 28, 2011

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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