Species: Gorilla gorilla gorilla (Western Lowland)
Geographic Range: Central Africa
Size: 200-500 pounds
Lifespan: up to 50 years
Conservation Status: Critically endangered
Find them with the Primates Map
- Gorillas can live up to 40 years in the wild and 50 years in captivity.
- Gorillas are the largest of all primates.
- In the wild, gorillas live together in groups called troops.
- Adult male gorillas can eat up to 40 pounds of food each day.
Gorilla Forest opened in June of 2014. This $11 million exhibit redesign and overhaul features nine gorillas, and the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America.
Gorillas are one of the nation’s most favorite zoo animals, according to a recent Harris Poll, ranking in the top ten (Como is home to 9 of the top 10). Gorillas have been a part of Como’s rich history since the mid-1950’s and were one of the first zoos in the nation to engage in breeding loans of great apes to other zoos so that reproduction of these species could be improved.
The Gorilla Forest construction included the addition of a major outdoor exhibit and significant improvements and expansions to the existing indoor facilities. All changes to the exhibit exceed the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements for holding, exhibiting and managing great apes. The 13,000 square foot outdoor space, almost three times larger than the previous space, was designed to give the gorillas ample room to play, climb, forage and display their extraordinary family and social dynamics to the public while minimizing stress on the gorillas and creating up close and personal views of the gorillas for visitors.
The indoor facilities, including the behind-the-scenes areas, were enlarged and could make mating these endangered species a possibility for Como. The new gorilla holding building provides plenty of natural light and two stories for the animals with view windows and perches so the gorillas can see out. Improvements to existing rockwork and trees provide more horizontal space for gorillas and planned family groups. Better ventilation, lighting, drainage and a new rainforest mural on the dayroom wall create an improved environment for the animals and viewing experience for the public.
While designing Gorilla Forest, Como emphasized the necessity of creating an enriching experience for guests as well as improving conditions for the animals. A recent study from the Institute for Learning Innovation found that children and adults who visit Como Zoo and similar facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums “leave the zoo thinking differently about their role in environmental problems.” Researchers noted that a zoo visit makes visitors feel they can make difference in solving environmental challenges, with significant increases in visitors who agree with the statements “There is a lot I can do to conserve” and “I am a part of the solution to nature’s problems.” Armed with this knowledge, Como designed this exhibit with the goal of informing and empowering the public, while maintaining a pleasing aesthetic experience.