Zoo Atlanta bids bon voyage to Machi the gorilla
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Mother of Willie B.’s only son is headed to Knoxville after more than three decades in Atlanta
She’s a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother with family ties in Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina and the North Georgia mountains, and she may soon start a new branch of her family tree in Tennessee. Machi, a 36-year-old western lowland gorilla, will depart Zoo Atlanta on February 27 for a new home at the Knoxville Zoo.
Machi’s move is part of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), which oversees suggestions for breeding and placement of all gorillas living within collections at AZA-accredited zoos in North America. Participation in SSP programs helps to ensure that animal populations in zoological settings remain self-sustaining and genetically viable.
Born on March 1, 1976, at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Machi has lived at Zoo Atlanta since 1988. She went on to become the companion of two of the Zoo’s most famous patriarchs – Willie B. and Ozzie – and is the mother of three offspring, including Willie B., Jr., the only son of the legendary late silverback.
Animal care professionals have worked for weeks on training Machi to prepare for her journey, which she will make by truck in a large, comfortable crate. Machi has progressed very well in learning to enter the crate voluntarily on request, and staff is confident that she’ll have a successful trip to her new zoo.
Just as Machi embarks on her next chapter, North America’s largest collection of gorillas will soon expand with a new arrival. Willie B.’s youngest daughter, Lulu, is expected to give birth between mid-March and mid-April; her half-sister Sukari is due in August.
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered. Habitat loss and poaching are the primary threats to wild populations, which may have declined by as much as 95 percent in some parts of Africa over the past two decades. Zoo Atlanta is a national center of excellence for the care and study of gorillas, with more than 120 published research papers authored or co-authored by Zoo Atlanta staff. In 2011, Zoo Atlanta received the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Edward H. Bean Award for Scientific Achievement in recognition of its long-term commitment to the species.