5 September 2023

Gorilla Kaius settling into new home after being hand-raised by zookeeper

| Claire Sams
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Zookeeper Chad and baby gorilla

Gorilla Kaius has moved from the care of humans into an enclosure with his fellow primates. Photo: Zookeeper Chad.

As any new empty nester would know, there’s a mixture of pride, apprehension and excitement as your charge leaves home.

For Australian Wildlife Parks managing director Chad Staples, his charge was a western lowland gorilla named Kaius.

In late August, 11-month-old Kaius moved from Mr Staples’ care into an enclosure alongside his fellow primates.

“This was one of those moments that I’ve been planning and looking forward to, ever since he came into my care,” he said.

“Out of all the scenarios that could have taken place, the success of the transition just shows what a healthy, happy young gorilla he is.

“Kaius has really taken to his new home.”

Following a complicated birthing story as Kaius’s mother needed emergency surgery, Kaius ultimately contracted sepsis pneumonia and needed medical treatment.

Mr Staples stepped in and became Kaius’s surrogate parent after his recovery.

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Mr Staples said the process of moving Kaius to an enclosure took several months of slow work.

“It’s one big step that’s broken up into a thousand little ones,” he said.

When Kaius was seven months, he was moved to the gorilla enclosure and has been living in the bedroom beside Aunty G-anne for the past two months.

“What we were doing was creating proximity between the two of them, so they could not only start getting to know each other, but to start to build their own bond,” he said.

“We didn’t want them to be shocked when we opened the doors between the bedrooms.

“It was largely undramatic when we opened the doors, which was perfect.”

A young Kaius with tubes in his nose and a beanie, holding onto a man's finger

Kaius was ill when he first came into Mr Staples’ care but has since grown in strength and size. Photo: Zookeeper Chad/Facebook.

Though Kaius is now living with his primate relatives, Mr Staples said he will continue to look after him and the other animals in his care.

“I’ve had the privilege and responsibility of caring for many, many animals through a hand-raising process, and none have come close to the investment that I had to put into Kaius,” he said.

“But I don’t think there will be anything quite like that experience with Kaius again.”

Kaius will continue to receive bottles of milk twice a day, though vegetables become a larger and larger part of his diet as he continues to grow.

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The next step for Kaius will be preparing him for public exhibition, Mr Staples said.

“To be honest, I can’t wait for the day that G-anne and Kaius can go on display together, so everyone can finally meet him.”

But for those looking to take a trip to Mogo Wildlife Zoo to see Kaius, Mr Staples cannot announce a date yet.

“Them just living together will be as far as it goes, until they show they’re ready for the next step,” he said.

“I’m not putting any hard and fast timeframes on the next part.”

Mogo Wildlife Park is located at 222 Tomakin Road in Mogo and is open from 9 am to 4 pm.

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