One of Werribee Open Range Zoo’s male Western Lowland gorillas, Yakini, celebrated his 19th birthday today with an array of treats.
Yakini was gifted a colorfully painted birthday sack filled with gorilla-friendly snacks of popcorn, cereal and dried fruits. Not to be left out, younger brother Ganyeka and father Motaba also received their own treats in celebration of the day.
It’s a gift fit for a king, or in this case, a dominant silverback. Yakini became the leader of his group after Motaba stepped down to enjoy his twilight years.
Keeper Kathleen Scanlon said Yakini brings a strong, calming presence to the gorilla troop.
“As a leader, he sits back and assess situations. He’s very patient and measured with his younger brother,” she said. “Gorillas are actually often very passive, and Yakini is the epitome of his species in this way.”
Yakini and his family are important ambassadors for Western Lowland gorillas in the wild – a species whose population has been decimated by the destructive mining of a metallic ore called coltan.
Coltan is used in personal digital devices including mobile phones, tablets and laptops. The expansion of coltan mines in Rwanda and the Republic of Congo is destroying the habitat of these critically endangered animals.
Zoos Victoria’s They’re Calling on You campaign encourages visitors to recycle their old mobile phones to support Gorilla Doctors, an organisation that provides vital medical care to vulnerable populations of gorillas in the wild.
You can donate your old mobile phone at Werribee Open Range Zoo.