6 September 2013

Melbourne Zoo has welcomed a very special new arrival this morning.

Twelve-year old male gorilla Otana has finished his long journey from Howlett’s Wild Animal Park in the U.K.

Melbourne Zoo Senior Primate Keeper Damian Lewis spent time at Howlett’s to get to know Otana, and they travelled back on the same flight.

Damian oversaw the transfer of Otana from his travelling crate to the Zoo’s quarantine facility this morning and will be keeping him company to help him settle in to his new surroundings.

Otana has travelled well, with Qantas providing VIP treatment all the way.

Damian says the Captain even came to ask what would be the best temperature in the hold to keep Otana comfortable.

At the Dubai stopover, a Qantas ground staff member met Damian to see what they could do for Otana.  He came back to report that they had filled Otana’s water drinker and that otherwise all was well, so Damian could relax on the flight home.

Otana travelled with his own inflight snacks: bananas, nectarines, sweet potato, carrots, witlof, leeks, grapes, dates, plums, and mangos.

Otana will now be spending a minimum of 30 days in quarantine, in accordance with AQIS requirements.

Then he will be introduced individually to the female gorillas here in preparation for moving into the group as their leader.

Zoo Director Kevin Tanner says that ‘After the sad loss recently of our male gorilla, Rigo, it was very important for us to bring in another male to become the new group leader. The natural social structure of gorilla groups is a male with several females and their young.

‘We were fortunate that Otana had recently reached the age when he was too old to remain in his family group.  He was ready for a group of his own right at the same time that we needed to locate a new male for our females.’

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