Meet Kingo: Wild silverback gorilla, doting father of 20

Kingo
© Ivonne Kienast/WCS

He’s a fierce defender of his family and 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.

What makes an ideal dad? Is it strength? Affection? Guidance? Wisdom? In the case of the wild silverback gorillas, we can take a look at Kingo, a handsome male living in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, to get an idea.

Let's put it this way, if he were on Twitter, his bio would read something like this:

Father of 20, doting dad, fierce defender of family. Loves naps with feet up in the air and humming while eating.

Yes, that's right. Father of 20 ... from nine different mothers. Super dad. (Plus, hums while eating. Swoon.)

The Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Congo Program researchers have been studying Kingo for the past 17 years in the park – a 1,500 square-mile (4,238 square-kilometer) protected area WCS co-manages with the Congolese government. Not only do the gorillas call it home, but also forest elephants, bongo, sitatunga and other spectacular wildlife.

“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," says Ivonne Kienast, WCS Site and Research Manager of the Mondika Gorilla Project. "We laugh when they play, we cry over their deaths, we hold our breath when one is injured, and we fight to protect them.”

Kingo© Zanne Labuschagne/WCS

The WCS researchers tell of this father's life story. It reads like a reality TV show plot:

"He’s had 10 mates; only one has remained with him. In the last two years, four females have left him, leaving their weaned infants behind for Kingo to protect. He once abducted the daughter from another group who continues to remain with him. Fourteen of his 20 offspring have died; most were under the age of three. WCS researchers report his most recent offspring born earlier this year, may have been taken by a predator. Unfortunately, the chances for young gorillas surviving in the wild to adulthood are often low, as gorillas face many threats to survival including leopard attacks and disease as well as poaching. Only one of Kingo’s daughters has so far survived to emigrate to a new group. The rest of his remaining offspring are still with him."

And through it all, he stays calm and focused. he is caring, referees the older kids if they roughhouse too hard with the infants, and spends time in thought and musing.

And now, not only is it Father's Day season, but it is also this grand silverback's 40th birthday! To celebrate, why not consider participating in WCS's Gorilla Survival Challenge? They will double your gift to protect gorillas from poaching and save their forest habitat from destruction. Kingo deserves a nice home, after all, to raise his kids ... all 20 and counting.

Visit the Gorilla Survival Challenge to learn how you can help.

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