This Winningly Winsome Set of Simian Siblings Is Identical, Inseparable and Irresistible

updated 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

What's more fun than a barrel-chested baby gorilla? Why, identical twin gorillas, of course. Two and a half years after their arrival, Macombo and Mosuba's mirrored monkeyshines have made them favorites at two midwestern zoos.

Twins are rare among gorillas to begin with, and because the African lowland gorilla is an endangered species, the twins' birth was the answer to a primatologist's prayer. The identical 4½-pound males are the first set of live twins ever born in captivity in the U.S. The only problem was one of custody. The pair were born in the Columbus, Ohio zoo, where their father lives, but their mother was on loan from the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. According to breeding agreements between the zoos, the first offspring belongs to the mother's institution and the second to the father's.

Luckily, the locals went ape at the thought of splitting the two. Says Columbus Zoo director Jack Hanna, "I would have been hanged if I had separated them." So a temporary compromise has been devised that has turned the primate playmates into jet-setters. Mosuba (the elder by 56 seconds) and Macombo divide their time between Omaha and Columbus, traveling to and fro by private plane. The twins' togetherness is guaranteed until the bonds of brotherhood have been outgrown. Which is just as well, because these days the 50-pound toddlers have to be moved around by wheelbarrow because they refuse to be carried separately. Says their Columbus keeper, Dianna Frisch, "They look like a big black spider—a furry ball with eight protruding limbs."

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