JoJo, an enormous silverback gorilla who recently moved into
, had brunch Tuesday with his new female friends Binti Jua and Koola atop a miniature mountain at his new home. But it wasn't their first date.
As part of a breeding program, 32-year-old JoJo was shipped from the
to the Tropic World habitat at Brookfield, which is home to the two female gorillas and Koola's young daughter. Zoo officials hope the sons and daughters those primates produce over the next several years will bolster the population of 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 (JoJo) hasn't been hesitant to respond to the females."
Binti is the mother of Koola. Both are of a healthy child-bearing age. Assuming their relationships with JoJo continue to blossom, the gorillas could be expecting soon. JoJo is expected to be at Brookfield for at least 10 years.
But Tuesday's gathering of the apes was a polite one, as journalists got to view JoJo in his new habitat for the first time.
JoJo's hulking frame ascended the mountain, a man-made centerpiece of the gorilla house, but he let the ladies go first. After gorging themselves on grape leaves and a banana tree, the gorillas settled in for an afternoon nap.
At about 420 pounds, JoJo is clearly the king of the jungle in Tropic World. He's also a new star at Brookfield Zoo, as evidenced by the crowd waiting in line for the gorilla exhibit to open.
"He's the boss," said 7-year-old Cameron Pritchard of Bolingbrook.
But Binti, a 24-year-old female and, according to zoo staff, JoJo's ideal match, is famous in her own right.
In 1996, when a toddler fell almost 20 feet into the gorilla exhibit 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.
Zookeepers, who describe JoJo as a gentle giant, said the two should make a great match and be exceptional parents.