India's only gorilla is lonely. Even though Polo is 6 feet tall, dark-haired, bilingual and good-natured, the 36-year-old silverback gorilla is still single after a fruitless eight-year search.
"We have written to all major zoos in the world. We have tried everything," said Vijay Ranjan Singh, the director of the zoo in Mysore, a city in southern India about 525 miles southeast of Mumbai.
Polo, who was sent to Mysore from Ireland's Dublin Zoo in 1995, has been alone since 2000 when his mate, 46-year-old Sumathi, died.
Singh said that because gorillas are considered highly endangered, other zoos are reluctant to part with theirs. The Mysore zoo doesn't want to send Polo abroad to find a friend because he is India's only gorilla. Also, animal transfers are usually done within the framework of breeding programs that are often regional.
Worried that failure to find a companion for Polo could cause him psychological harm, his keepers decided to make one final plea. "He needs psychological and emotional enrichment that we can't provide," Singh said by telephone from Mysore on Thursday.
Polo is a western lowland gorilla, native to the forests of central Africa. Silverback gorillas - marked with a distinctive patch - are dominant males who usually live in family groups in the wild.
"He is not very happy. The few joys he enjoys are bathing and searching for food that his keeper hides in blocks of ice or in bamboo to keep him energized," Singh said.
For the prospective mate, Singh says Polo is good-natured and responds to commands in both the local Kannada language and English.
"He is in fine health, but lonely," Singh said. "After eight years, anyone would be."
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