Gorillas in Our Midst

The Story of the Columbus Zoo Gorillas

Jeff Lyttle. Foreword by Jack Hanna



160 pp. 6x9

$27.95 paper 978-0-8142-0767-3
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Back In Paperback Spring 2016

“The most notable lowland gorilla family in the world had its beginnings at the Columbus Zoo. On the morning of December 22, 1956, the zoo received an early Christmas present. A baby gorilla was born, and what a momentous occasion it was! After all, this was the first gorilla born in captivity in a zoo, an animal park or any other facility throughout the world. . . . Throughout this book, you'll learn a lot about these magnificent animals and why we must do all we can to save them and their natural habitats. And, of paramount importance to the success of the gorillas, you will understand what a critical role the zookeepers have played, because they, in a special way, are also members of the gorillas’ families.” —Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus, Columbus Zoo

Just as gorillas have a special allure for zoo visitors around the world, the Columbus, Ohio, zoo has a special place in the history of the care and captive breeding of the greatest of the great apes. Columbus was the site of the world's first captive gorilla birth in 1956, and in the more than four decades that have passed since that historic day, twenty-six more gorillas have been born into the Columbus Zoo gorilla family.

Gorillas in Our Midst chronicles the characters and events that have made the Columbus gorilla program world renowned. From the brutal capture of the zoo’s first gorillas in the rain forests of Africa to the birth and mother-rearing of a fourth generation of offspring, author Jeff Lyttle takes the reader through the triumphs and tragedies of a captive gorilla program that is on the leading edge of the effort to preserve the endangered western lowland gorilla.

Among the fascinating events Lyttle narrates are the birth of Colo, the world’s first captive-born gorilla, now the mother of three, the grandmother of fifteen, and the great-grandmother of two gorillas, and still going strong at the age of forty. He also tells the story of the first gorilla twins born in the Western Hemisphere–Macombo and Mosuba–as they grow from playful infants to important members of gorilla troops at two American zoos.

Jeff Lyttle interviewed more than twenty current and former members of the Columbus Zoo staff to recount the details of this compelling story. A graduate of The Ohio State University, Lyttle has worked as a professional writer and corporate communicator for more than twelve years.