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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Brothers in arms: The touching moment two hugging gorillas were reunited in their park enclosure after nearly three years apart

•Kesho the gorilla was separated from his brother Alf after he was chosen to take part in a breeding programme
•But the brothers acted as if they had never been apart when they were reunited at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire

By Rob Preece

Embrace: Gorillas Kesho and Alf embrace give each other a hug after being reunited at Longleat Safari Park

As some stressed parents know only too well, brothers don't always get on.

But when these two gorillas were brought together for the first time in almost three years, they hugged as if they had never been apart.

Kesho and his younger brother Alf recognised each other instantly as they set up home at a new £3million gorilla enclosure at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire.

Welcome: Kesho is settling in well with his brother at the safari park

Thirteen-year-old Kesho and nine-year-old Alf were raised in captivity together, but they were separated in 2010 when the elder sibling was sent to London Zoo as part of a breeding programme.

Kesho was sent back after he was found to be infertile, but his time spent in female company caused his appearance to change significantly.

His rise in testosterone levels gave him a silverback, his weight increased by 200lbs and his neck and head also grew in size.

These changes weren't a problem for Alf, however. He exchanged handshakes and laughter with his elder brother during the reunion.

Long time, no see: Kesho and Alf shake hands after being brought together for the first time in years

Home: The brothers are kept in a £3million gorilla enclosure at the safari park

Mark Tye, head gorilla keeper at Longleat, said: 'We weren’t entirely sure that the brothers would even know each other, but the moment they met you could just see the recognition in their eyes.

'They were touching each other through the cage that temporarily separated them and there were no acts of aggression.

'We put them together 24 hours later and it was like they had never been apart.

'They were very animated and there was a lot of rough and tumble on the floor, but not in an aggressive way.

'It is quite unusual to see that sort of childlike behaviour in a silverback.'

Mr Tye said that Kesho was very tolerant and the gorillas had formed a 'really tight bond'.

Like old times: Staff at the safari park say the gorillas are behaving as though they have never been apart

Family resemblance: The brothers were raised together at Dublin Zoo, but became separated when Kesho was chosen for a breeding programme

He added: 'Had they been two strangers there would have been a lot of face to face confrontation and some fighting and screaming.

'But Kesho and Alf were happy to turn their backs on one another which is a sign of trust.

'It is great for Alf to have an older brother to look up to and learn from and Kesho seems to enjoy being the centre of attention.

'It was very satisfying to see.'

The brothers were born at Dublin Zoo but parted when Kesho joined three females in London.

Longleat has set up a ‘bachelor group’ of gorillas as there are too many males in the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria breeding programme.



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