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Brookfield Zoo now home to JoJo, the gorilla who became a star at Lincoln Park


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Updated: January 23, 2013 5:42PM

JoJo, the silverback gorilla who was a visitor favorite for decades at Lincoln Park Zoo, has a new home and a key mission.

The 32-year-old, 420-pound vegetarian showed off his new stomping grounds Tuesday at Brookfield Zoo, where, after being at Lincoln Park since the early 1980s, he has been moved for breeding. The animal is a member of the critically endangered western lowland gorilla species.

“JoJo is a very lucky guy,” said Craig Demitros, associate curator of primates for the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo. “He’s a very good genetic match for our females. And that will lead to genetically valuable babies.”

The west suburban zoo’s Tropic World: Africa exhibit was closed to the public this month to give JoJo time to adjust to life with the three female gorillas there — Binti Jua, 24, Koola, 17, and her 8-year-old daughter, Kamba.

“He’s fit in very well so far,” Demitros said. “There was a little bit of friction at first but nothing unexpected. You never know how some introductions are going to go, because silverbacks are naturally dominant.”

The female gorillas are being given birth control concealed in grapes for now — but only until the group is considered stable. Zoo officials hope JoJo will then mate with either Binti Jua or Koola. Kamba will continue taking birth control until she is 10.

“With three females and a male, it’s pretty typical of a group you would find in the wild,” he said

The zoo’s previous silverback, Ramar, 44, will transfer to another habitat at the zoo.

“We’re hoping JoJo will eventually reproduce with all three females,” Demitros said.

He expects one of the female gorillas to give birth as early as the fall of 2013. Western lowland gorillas are native to the forests of West Africa but face declining numbers due to habitat destruction and slow reproduction cycles .

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