Two of the four gorillas during the reopening of the Home of the Gentle Giants at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria. Picture: Phill Magakoe

For the first time in many months gorillas may be seen at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria. Not a sound came from the gorilla enclosure yesterday as spectators anxiously waited for the primates to make their appearance.

The Home for Gentle Giants was officially reopened after its previous tenants had to be returned to their country of origin, Cameroon, because of complications with their permits about three years ago.

The gorillas, Bonsi, Binga, Louie and Asali, are part of an international breeding plan.

According to Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, of the National Research Foundation in Pretoria, the breeding programme is closely co-ordinated with zoos in Europe and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

A detailed stud book is kept on all the available males to ensure the genetic health of the gorilla population and to prevent in-breeding.

Van Jaarsveld said the zoo was waiting for a female gorilla to become available so a breeding programme could begin.

Bonsi, 9, and Binga, 8, were the first to arrive in January and are on loan from the Zurich Zoo.

Louie, 7, and Asali, 6, were brought from Israel.

The gorillas were gradually introduced to each other through the bars of their enclosures for a few hours a day.

When they eventually made their appearances, they seemed relaxed and playful and not at all bothered by the activities on the other side of their enclosure.

Israeli ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg said: “Seeing the gorillas interact with each other brings me great pride. What a wonderful way to contribute to the environment.”

Dr Clifford Nxomani, managing director of the National Zoological Gardens, said the zoo was excited about reopening the gorilla enclosure to the public.

The gorillas will be on public display for some real monkey business from next week. - Pretoria News