Werribee Open Range Zoo


Werribee Open Range Zoo is home to three male gorillas – Motaba, Ganyeka and Yakini. These endlessly fascinating creatures, come from the same family as humans and chimpanzees with a genetic difference of only 1.6%. 

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 and 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 numbers are decreasing.

Motaba, who lives at Werribee Open Range Zoo, has been a part of the international breeding program, fathering five young including sons Ganyeka and Yakini who live with him. 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 mining for coltan (a mineral used to make mobile phones) is having a catastrophic impact on endangered wildlife such as the gorilla. Come and visit the boys and learn about Zoos Victoria’s mobile phone recycling campaign, They’re Calling on You, which supports the Gorilla Doctors in conserving Africa’s primate species.

The Western Lowland Gorilla lives in troops of up to 30 gorillas. 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.

Just like us, gorillas make many sounds to communicate. These include pleasure grumbles, giggles, grunting and coughs. 

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 and is he is now retired from the breeding program.


Born 2000


Born 1999. 

Older brother of Ganyeka and son of Motaba. Yakini is now the dominant silverback of this bachelor group, having gained the physical advantage over his father. Yakini melted hearts the world over when he was born via caesarean section in November 1999. 

Josh and Anthony

A special visit for Josh and Anthony

On Thursday 4 December, more than 300 students at St Justin’s Catholic Primary School were called to a special assembly in honour of brothers Josh and Anthony Del Papa.

8 December 2014

Happy 15th Birthday Yakini!

Western Lowland Gorilla Yakini marked his 15th Birthday on Friday 28 November at Werribee Open Range Zoo.

28 November 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 difference of only 1.6%. In this experience, you'll get up so close to the gorilla boys that the similarities are impossible to miss!

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