Two mystery deaths, a widowed mother-to-be and a teenage romeo: The real-life soap opera in the Gorilla House at London Zoo

By David Derbyshire

New kid on the block: Staff hope Kesho - who at 11 is just a teenager - will be a hit with the lady gorillas at London Zoo after his transfer from Dublin

With a widowed mother-to-be, the mysterious deaths of two husbands and a plot to fool a teenager into believing he's the father of an unborn baby, it has all the ingredients of a soap opera.

Welcome to life at the gorilla house in London Zoo.

Over the last couple of years the great apes of Regent's Park have lived a life that puts anything seen in Albert Square to shame.

Drama: Kesho is the third male gorilla to live at the zoo in the last two years

Yesterday, the drama took a new twist when keepers unveiled the latest addition to the zoo's three surviving female gorillas - a hunky 11-year-old male called Kesho.

In the next few weeks the newcomer, who is little more than a teenager in gorilla years, will travel from Dublin Zoo to join the London Zoo gorilla house.

He will be third male western lowland gorilla to live at zoo in the last two years.

The previous male Yeboah died suddenly in March just five months after arriving at the zoo after coming down with diabetes, while his predecessor Bobby died unexpectedly in December 2008 after a heart attack.

Yesterday the Zoological Society of London revealed they were racing against the clock to introduce a new male to restore balance to the group.

Shortly before Yeboah died, he got one of his cage-mates Mjukuu, 11, pregnant and the baby is due in October.

Any new male has to be settled into the group before the baby is born, otherwise there is a real chance he will kill it.

However, without a male the females are likely to become unsettled and unhappy.

Harem: Mjukuu (left) is already pregnant and zookeepers hope Kesho will accept the baby when it arrives. They also intend that Effie will be one of the newcomer's mates.

Tribe: Third female gorilla Zaire is 35 and now too old to breed

David Field, zoological director of the ZSL, said: 'This issue is complicated by the fact that one of our females, Mjukuu, is pregnant. This is Yeboah's baby and the introduction of any new male into this situation is very precarious.

'Introductions at the best of times are potentially stressful so introducing a new male is a difficult procedure but also it carries significant risk to the death of the infant.'

Kesho is the gorilla equivalent of an 18-year-old human. He has yet to grow a full 'silverback' - the layer of grey hair that distinguishes adult males - but is sexually mature.

His keepers describe him as happy and social, and believe he is old enough to cope with a harem of three females.

'We need to bring him in as soon as possible because this will give the keepers just over two months to introduce him to the gorilla group and allow them to integrate well and hopefully also to mate with Mjukuu,' said Mr Field.

'This will hopefully work through so that he's truly integrated to the group before the baby is born and then potentially accept the baby when it's born.'

Predecessors: Both Bobby (left) and Yeboah died suddenly leaving a gap for a leader of the pack at London Zoo

If Kesho does not believe the baby is his, there is a danger he will attack and kill it, said Mr Field. A baby is at risk from any new male until it is at least four years old.

The baby will be the first gorilla born at the zoo in 22 years.

Kesho will be gradually introduced to the females. The Zoo is hopeful that he will breed with the second youngest female of the group Effie, aged 17. The third female Zaire is 35 - too old to breed.

The death of two males at the zoo raised concerns that the gorillas were not being cared for properly.

Yesterday a report by an independent zookeeper cleared the zoo of any mismanagement.

Mr Field said: 'The death of Yeboah was a huge shock for everyone at ZSL and we were devastated. It invited a lot of interest and discussion partly because it was the second male to die inside 18 months.

'There were similarities, but also many dissimilarities and there is no medical evidence to support a link between the illnesses. So on the that basis the zoo is proceeding on the basis that these deaths were really an unfortunate coincidence.'

source: dailymail