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Werribee Open Range Zoo


Werribee Open Range Zoo is home to a bachelor group of three Western Lowland Gorillas, including aging silverback Motaba and his two sons Yakini and Ganyeka who are maturing into adult silverbacks.

Western Lowland Gorillas are native to Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. They are classified 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 illegal mining, hunting (even though they are protected) and human-borne diseases. 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 Open Range Zoo provides 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. 


Born 1983

Motaba is the father of Yakini and Ganyeka. For many years, Motaba was the dominant silverback – a role he took very seriously. He was the peacekeeper, protector and taught his sons the responsibilities of being adult gorillas. As Yakini matured and developed into a silverback, he took on the dominant role and Motaba gradually settled into retirement. While Motaba is no longer the boss, he is still respected as the senior member of the trio. 


Born 2000
Ganyeka is the younger brother of Yakini and son of Motaba. Ganyeka is is good at problem solving and is a bit of a strategist. Ganyeka likes puzzles, makes tools from sticks to help him get to treats and is often seen thinking things through. He loves to learn new things and is determined - he doesn't give up easily! As a youngster Ganyeka was cheeky and playful, often teasing his dad and big brother until they would play with him. As he matures, he is more of a political thinker - creating alliances with whoever is the strongest at the time! 


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. 

Yakini 1

A birthday treat fit for a king

One of Werribee Open Range Zoo’s male Western Lowland gorillas, Yakini, celebrated his 19th birthday today with an array of treats.

28 November 2018
Werribee Zoo phone charging bikes

New pedal-powered installation helps fight extinction

Visitors running low on mobile phone battery power are now able to exercise, charge and learn how to save wild gorillas all at the same time at a new pedal-powered charging station at Werribee Open Range Zoo.   

24 September 2018
Shadowfax winery

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.

Motaba the gorilla

Gorilla Encounter

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!

  • 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