Do Apes Go Through Menopause?

The Dallas Zoo’s aging female gorillas are part of a national quest for answers.

Really, it’s only the monkey’s business, says writer Katie Menzer.

“But if you must know the female gorillas at the zoo might have hit menopause,” she says. “Jenny and Timbo, the zoo’s female Western lowland gorillas, were part of a national study meant to determine whether there’s an end to an ape’s fertile years.”

Menzer said it’s a question primatologists have never been able to answer and one that could shed light on the mysterious evolution of our own species’ reproductive cycles.

While not everyone is ready to declare gorilla menopause as natural as the birds and the bees, the results are pretty clear for our girls, according to Menzer.

If Jenny and Timbo are hoping for a hairy bundle of joy they should consider adopting, writes Menzer.

The study began in 2002 with Alpha, a 41-year-old female at the Brookfield Zoo with a robust and borderline embarrassing libido, wrote Menzer.

A pregnancy might be dangerous for a 41-year-old gorilla but putting her on contraceptives could also be risky, according to research.

The scientists were able to expand their research through a grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Aging to study 30 gorillas at 17 zoos, according to stats.

What they found was that menopause is rare in the animal kingdom with most species remaining reproductively viable until death, stated Menzer.

The evolutionary reasons for menopause are still open to debate, even in humans, according to a recent article.

Among humans the average age for menopause is 51 in industrialized nations but it drops to 44 in less-developed areas, the article stated.

“More research is needed before scientists can state concretely that gorillas go through menopause,” said Todd Bowsher, mammal curator at the Dallas Zoo’s Wilds of Africa exhibit and a reproductive biologist. “I think it’s a great start but there’s a long way to go to answer the question.”

Unlike the lovelorn Alpha it’s been some time since Jenny or Timbo has expressed enthusiasm in the call of the wild, according to zoo staff.

Fubo, a sex-obsessed male gorilla who left the zoo for another two years ago, was Jenny’s last love interest although she wasn’t all that interested.

“She would tolerate it,” said Tami Jochem, the zoo’s senior mammal keeper, in a recent interview.

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