Abbey, one of the ‘Taiping Four’ gorillas, has found new meaning to life as she became surrogate mother to a newly arrived orphan gorilla at the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon.
Abbey recently became the surrogate mother to Bolo, a one-year old orphan, at the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon.
But another adult female, Brighter, showed interest and seemed willing to take on the role of caring for Bolo.
Abbey had other ideas, however.
“Very surprisingly, Abbey, who is not a dominant female, went up to Brighter and gently took Bolo off her and placed her on her chest,” said Felix Lankester, manager of the Limbe Wildlife Center. “What was surprising was that Brighter didn’t try to take Bolo back. It was obvious to everyone that Abbey was much more protective than Brighter ever was, and that was the kind of protection we were looking for.”
The Limbe staff had spent months patiently developing the
relationship between Brighter and Bolo, and even separated the pair
temporarily from the other gorillas in order to foster the bonds of
care. But Abbey’s willingness to take responsibility for Bolo proved
Although the gorillas at Limbe are placed on contraceptives in order to
restrict breeding, the introduction of Bolo (pictured above with Abbey
and another of the Taiping Four, Tinu) has spurred the group to begin
behaving more as they would in the wild. The males have assumed roles
of dominance and leadership, while the female serve as surrogate aunts,
and play with Bolo whenever they get the chance.
“This gives Abbey and the other females a chance to experience
aspects of motherhood, which is a really important thing for gorillas,”
“When they haven’t got that, they get bored and might display
unnatural behavior. Having Bolo in the group is a very calming
Snatched from their mothers when they were just babies, the
‘Taiping Four’ gorillas were smuggled from the forests of the Cameroon
and taken to a zoo in neighboring Nigeria. From there they became pawns
in the murky world of the illegal trade in endangered species. As
wild-caught animals they could not be traded legally, so forged
documentation described them as “captive bred” allowing them to be sold
to a zoo in Malaysia.
But the sudden arrival of four young gorillas on the international zoo
scene was bound to raise suspicion, and it didn’t take long for animal
welfare investigators to uncover and make public the illegality of
their capture and export.
regulations clearly state that, wherever possible, confiscated animals
are to be returned to their native land, and so they did, thanks to
IFAW’s supporters, the Taiping Four Gorillas arrived to their new home
in Limbe, Cameroon on November 30, 2007.