Milwaukee County Zoo welcomes 3 new gorillas 🦍

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee County Zoo is welcoming three new gorillas to the public on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

The western lowland gorilla family unit arrived the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in April. 

Oliver, Dotty and Nadami are settling into their new home at the Gorilla Habitat and officials say they seem to be very "at home" already. The three are said to be moving about in the exhibit, eating and playing comfortably for visitors to see.

The three completed their quarantine time in an off-exhibit area. Officials say all arrivals to the zoo spend at least 30 days in quarantine for their health and safety. 

Oliver, Nadami and Dotty lived well together as a family unit at the Columbus Zoo. Animal care staff say 32-year-old Oliver is a very laid-back gorilla, and he's content to sit back and observe what is happening around him. Officials say he only steps in when necessary. Even though he is hearing impaired from an illness when he was young, officials say he communicates well with his troop and his keepers.

The zoo says in communicating and training with Oliver and the other apes, keepers use hand cues paired with verbal cues to ask for behaviors like shoulder presentations, to help the animals participate in their own health care. Keepers say Oliver is very intuitive and follows the female gorilla's cues, according to the zoo. 

Officials say at 17 years old, Dotty started off being very respectful and calm, especially with the keeper staff. Now that she is more comfortable, her personality is showing and she often vocalizes with her care staff during feedings if they are taking too long or if she is offered a food item she doesn't prefer, the zoo says.

Nadami is 10 years old and is a bit more hesitant around the other gorillas. The zoo she say is very sweet when interacting with keepers. As the youngest of the three gorillas, the zoo says she spends most of the time moving around the exhibit, often seen making gestures towards Oliver and Dotty in the hope of initiating play behavior. 

Officials say after the quarantine time was completed, keepers allowed the gorillas to see the new public habitat areas before they were introduced to them, and had access to areas they were already comfortable with and they always had the choice of where they wanted to be.

The zoo says everything progressed smoothly and the family group has adjusted to anything new that has been presented to them.

"They're a cohesive group," said Patricia Khan, curator of small animals and primates at the Milwaukee County Zoo. "It's been wonderful. They respond really well to our keepers. Obviously they've filled our hearts. Right now we're absolutely in love with this trio."

The Milwaukee County Zoo is also home to two male gorillas, 29-year-old Maji and 26-year-old Hodari. Maji and Hodari are half-brothers and have spent most of their lives together. Officials say even though they won't be introduced to Oliver's troop, from the start Maji and Hodari could hear, smell and see the new gorillas in the quarantine area.

The zoo says early on, Maji liked to bang around and generally make his presence known to the family group, while Hodari had a more positive reaction to the new residents. Officials say Maji also shows more posturing with the new gorillas, which is typical when two silverbacks see one another. Officials say sometimes Oliver reacts to Maji, and the females sometimes display back at Maji.

Both Nadami and Dotty, who the zoo says are excellent genetic matches for Oliver, have received Species Survival Plans recommendations to breed with him at the Milwaukee County Zoo as part of the efforts to help protect the future of the species.

The zoo says future breeding most likely won't occur for a while. Both females are on birth control so the gorillas have time to acclimate to their new home. Officials say keepers continue to work on building strong relationships with the group and work on behaviors that may be necessary for a future pregnancy, such as abdominal ultrasounds.

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