NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Two of the Audubon Zoo's more iconic residents will depart New Orleans soon for other zoos as part of a program designed to sustain healthy zoo populations.
Casey, a male western lowland silverback gorilla, will be sent to Louisville June 12.
Berani, a male Sumatran orangutan, will go to the Denver zoo sometime later this month.
"It's going to be hard to say 'goodbye,' but it's for the bigger picture," said Courtney Eparvier, the Audubon Zoo Curator of Primates.
Accredited zoos in North America take part in the Species Survival Plan, a sort of match.com for zoo populations.
It tracks the genetics of each individual animal and often pairs them with potential mates in other zoos.
"It's important that they're not inbred, that their genetics are as diverse as possible to ensure a healthy population," Eparvier said.
Both species are listed as critically endangered in the wild, mostly because of the loss of habitat.
"These animals actually are the backup population for their wild counterparts."
Modern zoos no longer take species from the wild, meaning they rely on other accredited facilities to share their populations.
However, the transfer is not automatic.
Eparvier said the two zoos involved in the transfer of an animal coordinate to ensure the animal is the right fit in its new home.
The final decision on whether to locate rests with the owner of the animal.
"It's important to know that there's a lot that goes into the decision of whether we're going to do this or not," Eparvier said. "This is not a decision that we take lightly."
Under the SSP, the Audubon Zoo anticipates receiving a new male silverback gorilla later this year and a new male orangutan sometime in 2018.