HE IS JUST SO BEAUTIFUL. Lions and elephants make male gorillas look like family men. “I personally wouldn’t use the word ‘love’ to describe the relationship,” said Patrick Thomas, the general curator of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the zoo. “Wolves will spend a lot of energy trying to attract a specific wolf, and they form a bond that will last all their lives,” he said. “They just look for females in estrus, mate with them, and that’s all they have to do with the females and the babies,” Mr. Safina said. EDITOR’ S NOTE: The story of Ernie the western lowland gorilla was featured on Sunday’s episode of Animal Planet’s THE ZOO now in its third season. Ernie at the Bronx Zoo has sadly passed away at the age of 36 due to congestive heart failure. Carl Safina, an animal behavior expert, says gorillas like Ernie and his family feel the same lovesickness that humans do. The male gorilla will protect the troop if it is threatened, and because female gorillas will leave if they are unhappy, Ernie has an incentive to behave himself. Mr. Safina attributes that special feeling to oxytocin. “The only logical conclusion is that their experience is similar.”. It appears that you have disabled your Javascript. Whether it is love or hormones, most visitors to the zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest do not have a clue how many conference calls, committee meetings, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations it takes to produce a healthy relationship between two gorillas. How’s he doing ? On the other hand Carl Safina, during a recent walk around the zoo, spoke of gorilla love. World Gorilla Day hopes to build appreciation and action for these great apes that are critically endangered in the wild. Rest in peace, Ernie... “Ernie, one of our silverback gorillas, died this weekend due to complications from congestive heart failure. All of the gorillas at the Bronx Zoo participate in operant condition training sets with the zookeeper staff. He weighs between 450 and 500 pounds depending on the time of year, making him one of the largest silverbacks in North America. EDITOR’S NOTE: September 24 is World Gorilla Day. “The male chases around the female, who runs away, but wants to be caught. Or is he only in it for the sex? In the distance, on a hill, a 5-foot-tall, 505-pound male silverback named Ernie gazed out over it all, chewing on a celery stalk. A gorilla in the all-male enclosure at the Bronx Zoo. He spends most of his days lounging in … On a bright summer’s day at the Bronx Zoo, four adult female gorillas nursed their babies until the little gorillas were so full of mother’s milk, they fell asleep in the hot afternoon sun. Ernie is one of six silverback males currently residing in the Congo Gorilla Forest. Once he does that, she stops, adopts a receptive position and the male mounts her.”. “But also it causes a cub’s mother to come back into estrus so that the new male can breed with the females sooner.”. DO YOU THINK THAT HIS CHILDREN WILL INHERIT HIS HEART PROBLEM. What is early history? The current focus of the training for the six silverbacks living at the zoo is having them participate in voluntary cardiac ultrasounds. At these meetings, the first step to assembling a new troop is making sure the gorillas will be a good genetic match and thus avoid the sort of inbreeding that helped bring down the Hapsburg Empire. We want to know about yours. Ernie sired his first offspring in the spring of 2014 with female, Julia. On a bright summer’s day at the Bronx Zoo, four adult female gorillas nursed their babies until the little gorillas were so full of mother’s milk, they fell asleep in the hot afternoon sun. “It’s easier on him if we can do it in a quieter, off-exhibit area,” Dr. Thomas said. The goal of the training sets is husbandry-based, meaning they aid in monitoring and maintaining the health of the gorillas. Looking at how massive he is makes it hard to believe he was once a little guy like his son Kidogo Njemba. In the United States, all gorillas are conceived of in Cleveland, or at least that is where the chairwoman of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is based. In Ernie’s case, he has to be able to get along with Julia, Layla, Tuti, Kumi and Suki. Both parents were born in the wild in the early 1960s, at a time when gorillas were still taken from their natural habitats. Many mornings the keepers will find Ernie still in his nest with a couple of the kids wrestling and playing around him. They appear to have relationships more durable than humans who have divorce.”. Two radiated turtles touched noses, but that was all. “We have the same brain chemicals that create mood and motivation in all vertebrates,” he said. Certainly he knows what he’s doing, having sired four babies who were born to his mates in the last 18 months. Thank you for the show! Once members of the species survival committee are confident they have a good genetic and behavioral match, they will give the go-ahead for transferring the gorilla to a new zoo. Is Ernie the gorilla still at the zoo? As for elephants, the Temptations’ classic “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” applies. Two male baboons were eating ticks and bugs off each other’s backs. He is an ecologist, a winner of a MacArthur award and author of the recent book “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.” As far as he’s concerned, gorillas like Ernie and his five female companions feel the same thing in their chest cavities that humans do: the ache of a lovesick heart.