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Riverbanks Plans for Massive Mammal Move

For Immediate Release: January 15, 2015

Zoo to Welcome Four New Gorillas with the Departure of Three Male Silverbacks

[Columbia, SC] — Riverbanks Zoo and Garden plans to transfer three members of its western lowland gorilla troop to Houston Zoo in Texas as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The move will make room for the arrival of a family troop at Riverbanks for the potential of breeding.

Chaka (30), Mike (23) and Ajari (14) are scheduled to leave Riverbanks in mid-to-late February. The three silverbacks are some of the Zoo’s most popular residents.

"This move is extremely bitter-sweet for our entire staff,” said John Davis, curator of mammals at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. "Chaka, Mike and Ajari have been a favorite at Riverbanks for quite some time; while they will definitely be missed here, we know that they are headed to a great facility at the Houston Zoo.”

Riverbanks has been home to Chaka and Mike since July of 2004 when the pair arrived from Philadelphia Zoo in Pennsylvania. Ajari came to Riverbanks two years ago in January of 2013 from Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee. At Houston Zoo, the trio will reside in an all-new habitat—Gorillas of the African Forest. The exhibit will feature a lush outdoor landscape plus a multi-tiered night house with private bedrooms, a climbing structure and a behind-the-scenes yard.

Following this group’s departure from Riverbanks, the Zoo will welcome four new gorillas to its animal collection: a male from Birmingham Zoo in Alabama, a female from North Carolina Zoo and two females from Zoo Atlanta. Davis adds that once these gorillas have arrived at Riverbanks and the introduction process is complete, the group will be exhibited as a family.

"Our hope is that Riverbanks will receive a breeding recommendation from the Gorilla SSP at some point in the future,” Davis said.

For now, guests will have an opportunity to see Chaka, Mike and Ajari on exhibit at Gorilla Base Camp through February 15. During the transition, guests can continue to visit with Patrick, Riverbanks’ additional male gorilla, also at Gorilla Base Camp. For more information on these and other exciting happenings at the Zoo, visit