Goma has arrived!
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo welcomed Goma, a 25-year-old western lowland gorilla, to the troop on the morning of Tuesday, May 10. The silverback traveled from his previous home at Santa Barbara Zoo with two CMZ staff members and one of his previous keepers from Santa Barbara.
“He was calm and relaxed for most of the trip,” Dina Bredahl, animal care manager, said. “While we were driving, I would see particles fill the vehicle, and would look back to see Goma tossing hay and alfalfa in the air. He was fluffing his bedding in his transport carrier, which was a great sign that he was comfortable.”
Bredahl also said that Goma seemed to like to watch the cars pass by, but would vocalize when the lights from passing semi trucks were too bright.
“Goma is a lot more vocal than a lot of the gorillas I’ve been around,” Bredahl said. “He has a wide range of vocalizations including hooting and grumbling, which are very fun to hear.”
Not only was Goma calm during his cross-country road trip, but he is settling in at the Zoo quickly, too.
“He didn’t bolt into his new indoor exhibit like we thought he would,” Mandy Hester, Primate World lead animal keeper, said. “Instead, he looked around for a bit and then pragmatically checked out his entire area. He then ‘displayed’ by beating his chest and puffing out at our staff and our troop. Displaying can look scary, but it’s a silverback’s way of establishing dominance. We’d actually be concerned if we didn’t see Goma doing these types of dominance behaviors.”
Within just a couple of hours of Goma’s arrival, he was already taking food and juice drinks from the keepers, and within a day, he was participating in short training sessions with them.
“It’s a really good sign that he’s adjusting quickly, and it speaks volumes about his personality,” Hester said. “He’s spent the last 17 years at Santa Barbara Zoo, so to travel across the country, move into a new space, meet new keepers and then trust us enough to interact with us is nothing short of amazing.”
Hester added that although Goma is quickly adjusting, the Zoo’s other six gorillas are very cautious about him. For at least a month, Goma will be in a separate space from the troop, but they can all see and react to each other.
“The staff has fallen in love with Goma already, but it seems like it’s going to take a while longer for our troop to feel the same way,” Hester said. “Right now, they are cautiously checking him out, but most of them keep their distance. Tumani, our youngest female, and Roxie, our oldest female, seem to be the most comfortable checking him out through the mesh doors. They don’t always run away when he displays. We hope that they, and everyone else in the troop, become even more comfortable with Goma during this quarantine period.”
As with all new incoming animals, Goma will be quarantined for 30 days. He doesn’t have physical access to the Zoo’s six other gorillas, but guests can still see him in the exhibit adjacent to the rest of the troop in Primate World. After 30 days, animal keepers will have Goma “howdy” with the troop. ”Howdy” means he will be separated by a single barrier but would be in closer proximity to Asha, Kwisha, Juju, Roxie, Tumani and Dembe.
“Several guests are asking when the entire troop is going to be together,” Hester said. “We don’t have a timeline or a set date. A lot needs to happen before we open the doors and let the gorillas interact. We’ll be watching for signs that our females and Dembe want to be with Goma, and we’ll need to see positive interactions during the howdies. We may only introduce Goma to a few females at a time and not the entire troop, too. It really all depends on how the gorillas are behaving. We want this experience to be as positive as it can be for all of our gorillas.”
You can stay up-to-date on Goma and our entire gorilla troop by following the Zoo’s social media pages.