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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 12:15 GMT
Love-hungry apes move to island
Bangha the gorilla (Image: John Aspinall Foundation)
Single male, 180kg, enjoys outdoors, would like to meet...
Five male gorillas in the Republic of Congo that have been straying into villages in search of love are to get their very own "bachelor island".

They began roaming for mates after being squeezed out by dominant males.

Work has begun to convert 60 acres of the Lefini Reserve that is surrounded by rivers into a self-contained home.

The animals were orphaned as a result of the bushmeat trade and then sold into the illegal pet market before being rescued, conservationists said.

Roaming Romeos

The "Congo five" - Yambo, Kola, Titi, Massissa and Bangha - were released into the Lefini Reserve, managed by the John Aspinall Foundation (JAF), between 1996-2003.

It is an unfortunate fact that there just are not enough females to keep everyone happy
Amos Courage,
John Aspinall Foundation

The reserve is home to 19 gorillas, which have formed two distinct family groups.

Each family is headed by a dominant "silverback" male, who will mate with all the females within the group and fight off young rival males.

"Most of the orphan gorillas that have come to us in recent years have been male," said Amos Courage, JAF's overseas project director.

"It is an unfortunate fact that there just are not enough females to keep everyone happy."

As a result, the five orphans ventured outside the reserve into nearby villages, where they ate the locals' crops.

"Young males can walk for miles in their search for a female," Mr Courage said, "and since the reserve's wild gorilla population was wiped out through hunting in the 1950s, the Congo five were forced to start looking outside the reserve."

Map showing location of the Lefini Reserve (Image: BBC)

The roaming Romeos were caught by a team from the foundation, and it was decided to create the island reserve to prevent them wandering off again.

Bangha was the first to be released on to the island, and the other four were set to join him later this winter.

Mr Courage said the animals' well-being was the main concern: "By giving these five their own island, we can avoid future conflicts between gorillas and villagers.

"At 60 acres, the site is large enough for the males to each have their own space and avoid fighting," he added.

The JAF manages nearly one million acres of habitat in Congo and Gabon, and the animals it rescues are prepared for release in to one of the foundation's protected reserves.

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