the headlines to the article say “unprecedented” but it’s not. A similar incident happened in London a few years ago when the zookeepers forced an unwanted male on the mothers and babies. It is known that silverbacks are a risk, and the keepers introduce them anyway.
The claim is that the females “need” the male for the social structure, but they dont. There is an interesting comment here on the London incident.
Prof Sommer has contacted me with his response to ZSL and has said: “Zoos constantly prevent animals from exhibiting “wild behaviours”: birds have their wings clipped; predators are not allowed to hunt; sick animals are cared for. If zoos would really encourage wild behaviours, then they would let the tiger into the deer enclosure and the flamingos would soar into the sky – and the injured baby gorilla would not have been treated. So, zoos cannot have it both ways; if you force animals into an “unnatural” situation, then you have a responsibility to minimise the damage.
“Many primate species have a flexible social organisation. This is also true for gorilla sociality, which, “in the wild”, comes in various forms: All-male bands exist, lone males, bisexual groups with a single male, bisexual groups with two males; groups with only females.
“London Zoo should have waited until the gorilla infant was weaned; in fact, primate mothers with nursing infants will often leave a group to avoid contact with an incoming male.”