The ABQ BioPark has two separate gorilla groups, which live in separate yards—the silverback group and a second mixed social group.
Marcus leads the silverback group, which includes females Matadi and Tusa. A male such as Marcus transitions into a silverback when he has reached sexual maturity. Physically, you can identify Marcus’s silverback status by his silver-colored coat and enlarged sagittal crest (a ridge of bone running lengthwise along the midline of the top of his skull).
Marcus is recommended to mate with Matadi and Tusa in accordance with the gorilla Species Survival Plan. Matadi and Tusa have been off birth control for two years, but Marcus is a bit bashful, so breeding has been a challenge.
“If a keeper walks in on him, he gets a little shy and pretends he wasn’t doing anything,” said Ohrt.
Ohrt said the silverback group is mellow and balanced, with Marcus taking to his role of alpha male.
“Marcus has the silverback constant vigilance to make sure the girls are okay,” Ohrt said.
A triad of unruly bachelors rules the second gorilla group. Young males Jack, Mashudu and Hasani live alongside females Tulivu and Huerfanita.
Ohrt compares the three males to “adolescent teenagers”—they are busy establishing who’s on top in this community. They also practice their stancing skills. These talents will aid them in the future when challenging each other (and trying to impress females).
Although Tulivu is a female, she often gets involved in the action.
“I don’t think she’s quite figured out she’s not one of the guys,” Ohrt said.