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 support primate conservation. 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.