Gorillas are one of the nations 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 Habitat includes the construction of a major outdoor exhibit for the gorillas where they can play, climb, forage and display their extraordinary family and social dynamics to the public in landscape immersive natural habitats. The larger space of 10,000 square feet is approximately two and half times larger the current outdoor space and the smaller space of 2,000 square feet will be used for mothers with babies. The level of the outdoor exhibit floor will be raised so that visitors will get eye to eye, up close and personal views of the gorillas. The animals will be above in a superior position to the guests creating less stress for the animals and a more exciting viewing experience for the guest.
The improvements to the existing Gorilla Exhibit will provide a significant increase to quality as well as the quantity of space available for gorilla holding, husbandry, and exhibition at Como Zoo. A new gorilla holding building will provide space for a family group and a bachelor group, natural light filled, two story spaces for the animals with view windows and perches so the gorillas can see out. The re-glazing of existing skylights will increase natural sight (as well as UV light) in the indoor habitat. Improvements to existing rockwork and trees will proved more horizontal space for gorillas and planned family groups.
Improvements to ventilation, lighting, drainage and a new rainforest mural on the dayroom wall will create a significantly improved environment for the animals and an improved viewing experience for the public. This work will represent the first phase of redevelopment of the gorilla project. The improvements will exceed all AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and USDA requirements for holding, managing and exhibiting great apes. In addition the new facilities will permit Como Zoo to obtain family groups of gorillas with the potential of mating these majestic endangered species.
View structures and view shelters designed in a West African rainforest theme will provide ample viewing space including views through glass assuring up close experiences. School groups will meet in the view structure to learn about primates. A ‘behind the scenes’ view of the gorilla husbandry will be created where the public can view daily keeper/gorilla interaction and training. Descriptive interpretive graphics and exhibits will tell the story of gorilla behavior, conservation, and Como Zoo’s involvement in gorilla research.