Meet Kingo, a wild silverback gorilla who is celebrating his 40th birthday.
Kingo is a father of 20 from nine different mothers. He’s a fierce defender of his family who helped nurse two of his offspring back from leopard attacks. He likes to nap with his feet in the air, and he hums while he eats.
For the past 17 years, WCS Congo Program researchers have had the privilege of observing and studying Kingo in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park – a 1,500 square-mile protected area WCS co-manages with the Congolese government.
Since WCS researchers began following him, they have chronicled his dramatic life story and recently shared it in a tribute blog in honor of this birthday. He is a caring father who often stops other gorillas from playing too roughly with the infants. And he follows the females reluctantly into the swamps and washes plants before feeding on them, with the young ones imitating him.
Said Ivonne Kienast, WCS Site and Research Manager of the Mondika Gorilla Project: “Kingo can be seen just as a wild animal, a great ape, a species fighting extinction, one amongst thousands. But to the researchers and trackers who spend their years with him, Kingo is family. We laugh when they play, we cry over their deaths, we hold our breath when one is injured, and we fight to protect them.”
This Father's Day, we can all be inspired by the story of Kingo the silverback, who continues to lead his troop, and from whom we still have much to learn about his amazing species.