Reunions of the family may be tense occasions. These long-lost relatives, on the other hand, were eager to break the ice in the warmest of ways — with a huge bear embrace.
After being relocated to different zoos, Kesho the gorilla and his younger brother Alf had been separated for over three years.
They were reunited this week in Longleat Safari Park, where they greeted one other with wide embraces, shoulder squeezes, handshakes, and the occasional amount of brotherly roughhousing.
In a £3 million cage at the Wiltshire park, the pair will now live together.
They were separated when Kesho, 13 years old, was moved to London Zoo to participate in a breeding program.
He was sterile, but by living with three females as the dominant male, he rose to become the pack’s leader – and grew from a little blackback gorilla to a stout 35-pound silverback who towering over his nine-year-old sibling.
Fortunately, this was insufficient to prevent Alf from recognizing him. Gorillas can tell each other just by the form of their noses, even though they share 98 percent of their DNA with humans.
‘We weren’t sure the brothers would even recognise one other, but the instant they met, you could almost feel the familiarity in their eyes,’ said Mark Tye, chief gorilla keeper at Longleat.
‘They were caressing one other through the cage that separated them briefly, and there were no aggressive behaviors.’
‘We placed them back together after 24 hours and it was as if they had never been separated.’
‘They were energetic, and there was a lot of roughhousing on the floor, but not aggressively.’
‘That kind of infantile behavior in a silverback is pretty unique.’
Mr Tye said Kesho was a highly tolerant gorilla who had built a’really strong relationship’ with the other gorillas.
‘If they had been two strangers, there would have been a lot of face-to-face confrontation, fighting, and yelling,’ he said.
‘However, Kesho and Alf were content to turn their backs on each other, a gesture of trust.
‘Having an older brother to look up to and learn from is fantastic for Alf, and Kesho seemed to like being the center of attention.
‘Seeing it was incredibly fulfilling.’
The brothers were born in Dublin Zoo but split up when Kesho moved to London to be with three females.
Longleat has created a ‘bachelor group’ of gorillas since the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria breeding program has too many males.