The Taipei Zoo yesterday held a farewell ceremony for Pao Pao (寶寶), who is being sent to Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands to mate with female gorillas there.
The 33-year-old male western lowland gorilla was smuggled into Taiwan from Cameroon when he was two years old, but was rescued and sent to the zoo in 1987.
He only weighed about 10.1kg when he arrived, the zoo said, adding that he is now fully grown and weighs about 160kg.
A male gorilla named Happy kept Pao Pao company since 1991. At first, the two fought and chased each other around every day until they finally established their own territories, the zoo said.
On Jan. 12, 2008, Pao Pao escaped from the enclosure and injured a female visitor, who suffered mild abrasions. He was captured by zoo keepers shortly afterward.
Happy died at 49 in 2014, leaving Pao Pao alone, so the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s Gorilla European Endangered Species Programmes suggested Taipei Zoo take on an 18-year-old male gorilla named Diago from Opole Zoo in Poland. He arrived in Taiwan last year.
After eight years of negotiations with the program, the zoo said it received approval to let Pao Pao “get married” in the Netherlands, and breed to increase the genetic diversity of the gorilla population.
The zoo yesterday said that more than 10,000 people visited Pao Pao to bid him farewell since it announced his departure last month, and many of them wrote on guava-shaped greeting cards prepared by the zoo to say they hope he will “have many offspring like a tree full of guavas.”
The zoo said it has prepared presents for Pao Pao for his journey, including a burlap sack containing a familiar odor to make him feel at home, a backpack for his new zookeeper, his favorite fruit dried guava, Taiwanese wedding pastries and candies for his marriage, and dumbbells for him to exercise with.