Happy birthday, Kamba! Prague Zoo gorilla turns 50

The female gorilla and "full-time aunt" has been living at Prague Zoo since 2005 after struggling to fit in with other gorilla troops in European zoos.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 22.01.2022 09:58:00 (updated on 22.01.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague Zoo has some famous gorillas, including Richard, whose photogenic looks have made international headlines, and Ajabu, an unexpected "miracle" whose 2016 birth attracted the attention of wildlife activist Jane Goodall.

But none have as incredible a life story as Kamba, a female who celebrates her 50th birthday today. Kamba's journey over the past five decades highlights the struggles that gorillas face in the modern world, both in the wild and in captivity.

Kamba was born in the wild in Cameroon on January 22, 1972. When she was just two years old, her parents were killed by poachers, leaving Kamba an orphan. Fifty years later, poaching is still a problem in Cameroon, where adult gorillas are hunted for their meat and infants are captured and sold as pets.

While Kamba was spared the fate of her parents, she would spend the next thirty years without a permanent home. She made her way through zoos in Leipzig, Duisburg, and Dvůr Králové, but was never accepted into their local gorilla troops.

In 2001, Kamba ended up in Prague Zoo. She survived the 2002 floods that devastated the Zoo, but would be sent back to Dvůr Králové while Prague Zoo's enclosures were repaired over the next three years.

In 2005, she finally found a home both at Prague Zoo and within its gorilla population. She successfully mated with Richard, but tragically lost two children due to complicated births. Due to serious health complications, Kamba underwent surgery in 2018 to remove her ovaries.

Without children of her own but fully accepted among Prague Zoo's gorilla troop, which includes Richard and females Kijivu and Shinda, Kamba has taken to help raising the young males Nuru, Kiburi and Ajabu.

While it's common for females without offspring to help raise young gorillas, Prague Zoo's breeders have called the care Kamba takes with the Zoo's young gorillas "extraordinary," referring to her as a "full-time aunt."

"Kamba was born in the wild in 1972, and her parents killed by poachers when she was about two years old," describes Miroslav Bobek, director of Prague Zoo.

"After that, she gradually lived in several zoos, but for decades she was not accepted within a functional gorilla group; she found it only in our country, when she joined Richard's family and became a loving 'aunt' of the local cubs."

To celebrate Kamba's 50th birthday, Zoo officials have prepared a special program today that includes a special presentation on the dangers gorillas face in the wild from both deforestation and poachers.

Guided introductions to the Zoo's gorillas will take place on the hour, and at 3:00 p.m. Kamba and the other members of her troop will be presented with some special goodies to celebrate her 50th birthday.

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