Werribee Open Range Zoo


No-one misses a visit to meet the gorillas at Werribee. These endlessly fascinating creatures, which are from the same family as humans and chimpanzees, are so like ourselves – they even giggle when amused!

Gorillas are native to Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. They are classed as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’). These critically endangered animals are vulnerable to habitat loss from logging, mining, hunting (even though they are protected) and the Ebola virus. It is not known how many remain in the wild, but it is known that these numbers are decreasing.

One of the gorillas now at Werribee has been part of an international breeding program and the two younger males may be called on to join family groups as breeding males at some time in the future. Werribee is an important regional ‘male holding’ facility.

A visit to Werribee is an opportunity to learn more about the plight of gorillas in the wild and be inspired to take action to save them before it is too late. Learn about how coltan mining is causing catastrophic impacts on endangered wildlife such as the gorilla. The exhibit’s name, Gorillas Calling, is linked to Zoos Victoria’s mobile phone recycling campaign, They’re Calling on You, which supports the Jane Goodall Institute in conserving Africa’s primate species.

The Western Lowland Gorilla lives in troops of up to 30 gorillas. The groups are usually harmonious since there are no marked friendships between gorillas in a group. Distinct friendships can lead to jealousies and squabbling.

The leader of the group will usually be a dominant silverback male. In large groups there may be more than one silverback. These include younger, non-dominant males, who may eventually move off and live solitary lives. A male may kidnap a female gorilla from another group and begin a new troop.

Males exhibit aggressive behaviour by vocalising. The silverback stands on his hind legs and throws leaves and twigs into the air. He then beats his chest with his hands and runs back and forth tearing up the vegetation. The finale is beating the ground with the palms of his hands. This intimidating behaviour is used to threaten outsiders and often gives the impression that the gorilla is fiercer than he actually is.

Meet the animals


Born 1983

Motaba is the father of Yakini and Ganyeka. He was born in the UK at the Durrell Wildlife Preservation Trust and transferred to Melbourne Zoo in 1990 as part of the international breeding program for endangered species. Since then, Motaba has produced five offspring, so he is now retired from the breeding program.


Born 2000

Brother of Yakini and son of Motaba. Ganyeka is quite a character. He is cheeky and very intelligent. He is the one who will work out puzzles and make tools from sticks. He loves to learn new things and doesn’t give up too easily. He has no problem acting the fool, and when he’s excited he likes to spin on his back and shake his head laughing. He also often instigates play with the other two by throwing straw at them, or jumping up and down in front of them until they chase him.


Born 1999

Brother of Ganyeka and son of Motaba. Yakini is a bit of a quiet achiever. He gives his dad a wide berth but will take any opportunity to assert his dominance over his little brother when Motaba is not around. He observes situations and is a bit of a political thinker. He has really started to fill out and, at 136kg, he is beginning to look more like an adult. He spends a lot of time wrestling and laughing with his little brother. He takes a little while to learn new things but is very excited about it when he does.

We're Expecting

Melbourne Zoo is expecting a baby gorilla after 14 years

Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Ryan Smith, announced Melbourne Zoo’s Primates team is expecting a baby gorilla for the first time in 14 years.

25 July 2014

Students swing into action for gorillas

Eight year-old Anthony and his six year-old brother Josh are on a mission to help save gorillas in the wild.

2 July 2014
Shadowfax exterior

Shadowfax and the Savannah

Werribee Open Range Zoo and Shadowfax Wines have joined forces to create the perfect day of wine and wildlife at Werribee Park.

Gorilla Behind the Scenes at Werribee Open Rage Zoo

Gorilla Behind the Scenes

Meet the gorilla bachelor boys at Werribee Open Range Zoo. These endlessly fascinating creatures are one of our closest living relatives with a genetic makeup almost 98% similar to humans. Get up close to the gorillas in this experience to see the similarities like never before.

Did you know?
  • There are three gorilla subspecies: the Mountain Gorilla, the Eastern Lowland Gorilla and the Western Lowland Gorilla. All are found in the Western part of Africa
  • When excited and pleased, gorillas giggle in almost the same way that humans do
  • Young gorillas are very playful, tickling and chasing each other. At the Zoo they play with special ‘gorilla proof’ toys
  • Baby gorillas are quite similar to human babies and have the same needs, such as physical touching, security and lots of opportunities to play
  • When gorillas are upset or threatened they show it by cough