NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - There will be a new gorilla joining the Audubon Zoo family in December.
Okpara, a male Western lowland gorilla, soon will be settled in at Audubon Zoo – the latest move in a months-long process designed to establish a new gorilla group here that will help ensure the survival of the critically endangered species, according to a news release issued by the zoo.
"Okie,'' currently lives at Zoo New England's Franklin Park Zoo in Boston.
Zoo professionals are hopeful he will be successful in starting his own family at Audubon.
Okpara is African for "first-born son.''
"We are excited to have Okpara here and hope he settles in well with the help of the Zoo New England staff,'' said Courtney Eparvier, curator of primates at Audubon Zoo. "Okpara will have quite a presence at Audubon Zoo and we look forward to contributing to the Western lowland gorilla population.''
Okpara, age 24, will join another recent arrival - Tumani, a 10-year-old female Western lowland gorilla from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – and Praline, a female who is the last gorilla born at Audubon Zoo 21 years ago, according to the zoo.
Plans call for Tumani, which means "hope'' in Swahili, Praline and Okpara to soon be joined by another female gorilla.
Last month, the two female gorillas engaged in a structured introduction process to ensure that they would bond socially. That process is now complete and Praline and Tumani are comfortably cohabitating in Audubon's World of Primates gorilla habitat.
Okpara will undergo a similar introductory period before he joins the gorilla group.
Zoo New England and Audubon Zoo are active participants in the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Species Survival Plans help to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums.
Audubon staff plans to have Praline, Tumani, Okpara and possibly another new female gorilla in place by early 2018.
The structure of multiple females and a single adult male mirrors gorilla social groups in the wild, according to the zoo.