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Keywords:

  • gorilla;
  • introduction;
  • maternal behaviour;
  • surrogate mother;
  • training

In summer 1998 a ♂ infant Western lowland gorilla Gorilla gorilla gorilla at Zoo Atlanta was hand-reared and integrated into a social group. Because the biological mother would not accept the infant, he was introduced to a non-lactating surrogate mother. Gorilla infants are usually ≥ 6 months old at the time of introduction but this infant was successfully introduced to the surrogate at only 11 weeks of age. Behavioural observations made during the first year of development indicate that this infant's behaviour is similar to that of mother-reared gorillas and he shows no signs of abnormal or stereotyped behaviour. The choice of surrogate mother, the training of both the surrogate and infant for bottle feeding, and the dedication of the nursery-care staff who worked long hours to provide the infant with a stimulating nursery environment, all contributed to the success of the introduction.