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Trainer says goodbye to gorilla after 29 years together in Omaha

Trainer Says Goodbye to Gorilla After 29 Years Together in Omaha

A gorilla and his trainer have been together for 29 years, but their relationship is coming to an end.

"He's actually settled down a lot since his younger years. He was much more aggressive like these younger boys are," Houser said.

Houser dedicated hundreds of hours teaching Tubby, and the two built a special trust.

"Just to be accepted by an animal into their social group, that'll make a keeper's day, you know, that's a big deal," Houser said. "He's gotten to be so good."

Houser watched Tubby grow into a well-behaved, 430-pound silverback gorilla, perfect for breeding at the zoo in Philadelphia.

"He's actually going to a real good situation," Houser said. "I feel extremely good about what Omaha's done with the gorilla program and Tubby is an ambassador of that."

Tubby leaves early Thursday morning, and Houser says after so many years together, Tubby will be missed.

"Philadelphia is going to like him," he said.

Houser is flying Tubby to his new home. He said he plans to stay in touch with the zoo keepers in Philadelphia.

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Jan February 22 2014 at 3:45 PM

I feel sorry for Tubby and his trainer. It cannot be a good thing to move this animal to a new location, give him new handlers/trainers and expect him to continue on as if everything was the same . He may be ready for breeding but perhaps another solution could be found. Good luck Tubby.

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zannedon7 February 22 2014 at 4:26 PM

This is so very sad. These huge animals have emotions much like our own. How will they transition the separation for Tubby to help him trust in a one-on-one relationship again?

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punnster February 22 2014 at 4:38 PM

Hope the trainer will be able to help Tubby make the transition.

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mark marcum February 22 2014 at 5:18 PM

that is really sad

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Glocks Mom February 22 2014 at 5:43 PM

This is a very sad story, the bond they made is like no other. My heart travels with Tubby and Houser into their future.

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meandonnajean56 February 22 2014 at 12:07 PM

I just wonder how well or not Tubby is going to handle such a drastic change in people and environment. We all know that most animals form HUGE bonds to the humans they interact with on a regular basis so I worry about Tubby's emotional outcome with this move. I'm pretty darn sure it'll get easier for him as time goes by but that initial shock is what's most troubling to me. We'll just have to wait 'n see.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
kinda40 February 22 2014 at 12:04 PM

I'm concerned because Tubby has this long standing relationship and being moved will take that away. I'm thinking there could be an upset gorrilla on their hands. Just sayin

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1 reply
mclkarim kinda40 February 22 2014 at 12:56 PM

Who knows? Maybe, but he has never known anything else in his life so he may be even happier now.

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1 reply
pakagwamalkel mclkarim February 22 2014 at 4:58 PM


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dalenorris February 22 2014 at 5:56 PM

Dan is more than gracious about the situation but I'm sure his heart is being broken. I can't imagine after being together for 29 years that the separation will be easy for him - hopefully, Tubby handles it well. I'm near Philly so I look forward to seeing Tubby in the spring/summer after all this snow is just a memory!

Flag Reply +13 rate up
Fran February 22 2014 at 11:56 AM

Arrived at the zoo when he was 5 days old? Obviously, his mother was probably killed by poachers so they could sell an infant gorilla to be caged the rest of his life for our amusement.

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3 replies
Karen February 22 2014 at 6:22 PM

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