It wasn't their first date. JoJo, an enormous silverback gorilla from Lincoln Park Zoo, and his female companions, Binti Jua and Koola, met for brunch Tuesday atop a miniature mountain in west suburban Brookfield.
As part of breeding program, JoJo recently moved into the Tropic World habitat at Brookfield Zoo, which is home to the two female gorillas, as well as Koola's young daughter. Zoo officials hope their sons and daughters will help bolster the lowland western gorilla, a critically endangered species.
"(The females) have what's known as a 'come hither' look in their eyes," said Craig Demitros, associate curator of primates for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. "Let's just say he hasn't been hesitant to respond to the females."
The gorillas have already consummated their union, according to zoo officials. Females Binti and Koola, both of a healthy child-bearing age, will be taken off birth control. And, assuming the relationships continue to blossom, the gorillas could be expecting soon.
There was no monkey business going on between the gorillas on Tuesday morning. JoJo's hulking frame ascended the mountain, a man-made centerpiece of the gorilla house (he let the ladies go first). After gorging themselves on grape leaves and banana tree, the gorillas settled in for an afternoon nap.
"He's the boss," said 7-year-old Cameron Pritchard of Bolingbrook.
At about 420 pounds, JoJo is clearly the king of the jungle in the Tropic World: Africa exhibit. He's also the star of the show, as evidenced by the crowd waiting in line Tuesday morning for the gorilla exhibit to open. But Binti, a 24-year-old female and an ideal match for JoJo, according to zoo staff, is famous in her own right.
In 1996, when a toddler fell almost 20 feet into the gorilla pit at Brookfield Zoo, Binti picked up and cradled the unconscious 3-year-old boy. With her own offspring, Koola, clinging to her back, Binti carried the unconscious child to an access door where paramedics were waiting.
Zoo keepers, who describe JoJo as a gentle giant, said the two should make a great match and be exceptional parents.