News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,
February 6, 2023
 NOTE: Scroll to end of press release to download photos of Jontu.

Brookfield Zoo Welcomes New Silverback Western Lowland Gorilla
Zoo’s 7-Year-Old Male Gorilla Makes New Home at Saint Louis Zoo

Brookfield, Ill. — This past weekend on February 4, Brookfield Zoo welcomed, Jontu, a 26-year-old western lowland gorilla from Saint Louis Zoo in Missouri. During Jontu’s first few weeks at his new home, the silverback (adult male gorilla) will remain behind the scenes as he gets acclimated to his surroundings, the animal care specialists, and the zoo’s current all-female gorilla family—Binti, 34; Koola, 27; Kamba,18; Nora, 9; and Ali, 4.

During this transition time, the female gorillas will have access to their habitat in Tropic World: Africa and to their night quarters, giving them the choice to spend time with Jontu. Additionally, to give Jontu time to settle in, there may be times in the coming weeks that the Africa section is closed to guests.

With the addition of Jontu, on February 2, staff at Brookfield Zoo bid farewell to Zachary, a 7-year-old western lowland gorilla. There comes a time in a male gorilla’s life, when it’s time for him to leave his natal group. In some instances, adolescent male gorillas, known as blackbacks, may be solitary before seeking out females to form their own families. And, in other circumstances, it has been documented that males form bachelor groups. The latter is the case for Zachary, who now has a new home at Saint Louis Zoo. He will soon be introduced to a bachelor group that includes two adult males Joe, 25, and Bakari, 18, who was born at Brookfield Zoo in 2005.

“Since Zachary is unable to mate with any females at Brookfield, now is the right time to make this transition,” said Tim Snyder, vice president of animal care. “Plus, Zachary, who is the grandnephew of Bakari, has a great opportunity to interact and learn important skills that are needed to become a successful leader from the silverbacks. We’re grateful to our partners at Saint Louis Zoo for our collaborative efforts to create a seamless and comfortable transition for these incredible animals.”

The transfers of both Jontu and Zachary were based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited AZA zoos and aquariums.

Western lowland gorillas are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources primarily due to commercial hunting for the bushmeat trade, diseases such as the Ebola virus, as well as the illegal pet trade and habitat destruction from logging. It is estimated that there are approximately 300,000 western lowland gorillas found in swamps and dry lowland forests throughout Western Equatorial Africa, including in Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon, and Republic of the Congo, and 320 western lowland gorillas living in accredited North American zoos.

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Jontu-1(credit: Saint Louis Zoo)
Jontu-2 (credit Saint Louis Zoo)
Jontu-3 (credit Saint Louis Zoo)

About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people to wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. The zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, and CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit



Sondra Katzen
Director of Public Relations
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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