The Bachelor Pad

Three gorilla brothers roughhouse in the Detroit Zoo's Great Apes of Harambee exhibit


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Photograph by Tom Roy

When it comes to monkeying around, the three Western Lowland gorillas at the Detroit Zoo take exhibitionism to the next level. The Bronx-born half brothers, Chipua, 16; Pendeka, 15; and Kongo-Mbeli, 14, moved here 10 years ago, but recently there’s been trouble in paradise.

The hair on the back of these males has either turned or is turning silver-gray with age, earning them the name “silverback.” A power struggle between Chipua, the dominant male who became a silverback first, and his youngest brother, Kongo, has ensued. So where does that leave Pendeka?

Pende, as he’s referred to by zoo staff, has no interest in politics, it seems. Rather than try to challenge his brothers, this middle child can be found challenging exhibit visitors, charging the glass, shrieking loudly, and enjoying the reactions. Despite Pende’s extroverted ways in front of an audience, those who know him best say he’s laid-back, sweet, and nonconfrontational.

The brothers live an eventful life in their bachelor pad, but compared to what their lives in wilds of Africa could’ve been like, they’re living it up in style. Because of poaching, disease, and destruction of their natural habitat, Western Lowland gorillas have become an endangered species.

So Pende is relatively lucky that all he has to put up with is some heated sibling rivalry.

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