Light load: Silverback delivery

by MM&D staff

KENT, UK—A family of western lowland gorillas has a new home in Gabon.

The nine animals from the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, UK, are said to be the first full family group to be released into a natural environment. The gorillas are part of a program—the Aspinall Foundation’s “Back to the Wild” initiative—which breeds endangered and critically endangered species and releases them in an effort to preserve the species and increase wild population numbers. Western lowland gorillas are on the critically endangered list.

The gorillas, including one silverback male, were transported by DHL from the UK to the Batéké Plateau National Park, Gabon, with en route stops in Brussels, and Nigeria. They flew in a Boeing 767 that was specially equipped to carry the primates (which have a a combined weight of 620kg), and 1,200kg of food and veterinary equipment. They spent their final leg of the journey—from Fraceville, Gabon to the national park—on a helicopter, which was accompanied by Gabonese authorities. In total they travelled 9,000km.

According to DHL, the company “reassigned two different aircraft from their regular flying schedule and temporarily reconfigured its global network to ensure they could be delivered in as tight a timeframe as possible”.

The Aspinall Foundation describes western lowland gorillas as ” the smallest of the four subspecies [of gorillas]. However, ‘small’ is a relative term where gorillas are concerned as males—which can grow to around 1.8m tall—can weigh 140kg-270 kg—two to four times as much as an average human male of the same height. Females are smaller and lighter, usually weighing around half of what a male does, and growing to around 1.5m tall. Mature dominant males have conspicuous light grey hair on their backs, which gives them their name of ‘silverback’. The bony crest on the top of the skull is the attachment point for powerful jaw muscles, and gives their head a helmet-like appearance.”