Tuesday, August 4, 2015

“Nfumu Ngui”, The White Gorilla

SNOWFLAKE WAS captured in the Rio Muni region in Equatorial Guinea on October 1, 1966 by Benito Mañé, an ethnic Fang farmer. Mañé had killed the rest of Snowflake’s gorilla group (who were normal in color). Mañé then kept Snowflake at his home for four days before transporting him to Bata, where he was purchased by primatologist Jordi Sabater Pi .

Originally named “Nfumu Ngui” in Fang language (“white gorilla”) by his captor, he was then nicknamed “Floquet de Neu” (Catalan for “little snowflake” ) by his keeper Jordi Sabater Pi .Upon his arrival to Barcelona in November 1966, he was given an official reception by the then Mayor of Barcelona , Josep Maria de Porcioles and called “Blancanieves” (” Snow White “) in the newspaper Tele/Exprés . But he became famous with the name given to him by Sabater when National Geographic Magazine featured him on the cover in March 1967, with the English name Snowflake. This name spread among the press (Stern ,
Life , Paris-Match ). Sabater himself called the gorilla “Copi” or “Floquet”, and in the later years “Nfumu”. He was also known as “Little Buttercup”, and as the “Vanilla Gorilla”.

At first, the Barcelona Zoo was not aware that Snowflake was a unique specimen. They sent a message to Sabater Pi saying, “Please send more white gorillas.” The zoo later hoped to produce a genetic strain and an entire family group of white gorillas through selective breeding. The Barcelona Zoo had a protocol in place to have Snowflake’s testicles harvested, upon his death, and placed in the frozen zoo so as to reserve the option of having more offspring from him in the future. Snowflake’s genes would have been considered particularly valuable because he was wild caught, and therefore one of the genetic founders to the captive population of Western Lowland gorillas, which are endangered, and are being managed by AZA SSP / EEP captive breeding programs for wildlife conservation.

In 1986 the Barcelona Zoo enlisted British zoo veterinarian David Taylor to collect sperm from Snowflake for artificial insemination. Although the attempt was unsuccessful, the story was carried by newspapers the world over.


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