Zoo residents go ape in fun new habitat
Some awe-inspiring moments are being witnessed at Werribee Open Range Zoo this week, with a new habitat upgrade stimulating remarkable natural behaviours among a trio of silverback Western lowland gorillas.
Chest-beating, dashing, climbing, and a variety of captivating facial expressions and postures are catching the eye of visitors, with zookeepers erecting a number of new enrichment structures designed to stimulate curiosity, play, and critical thinking.
The habitat upgrade includes new puzzle feeders, hanging structures, and supportive geriatric equipment designed to cater for the needs of one of the Zoo’s elderly male gorillas.
Werribee Open Range Zoo African River Trail keeper Laura Hickleton says it’s fascinating to observe the varied responses from each of the gorillas to their refurbished habitat.
“All three gorillas are responding to the structures in their habitat very differently,” Ms Hickleton said. “Yakini, who is the leader of the troop, really loves engaging with puzzles and working for his food. He’s spending hours working out ways to dislodge it from the feeders, which is great mental and physical stimulation for him.
“Yakini’s brother, Ganyeka, is regularly dashing from one end of the exhibit to the other, pounding on all the hanging structures as he hurries past them. This is just one of the many behaviours he exhibits to try and gain the attention of his older brother.
Zoos Victoria assists the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International to address threats to gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park and Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda. This includes the development of projects that provide sustainable alternatives to hunting wildlife and extracting timber from the forests.
“Motaba is the father of Ganyeka and Yakini, and he is getting elderly for a gorilla, at 38 years of age. We’ve installed a new shelter for him to spend time under, which includes some hanging materials that he can hold onto to help keep himself balanced when he is sitting down and resting.”
Visitors to Werribee Open Range Zoo can see the gorillas engaging with their refurbished habitat from 9am-5pm every day of the week.
Werribee Open Range Zoo is home to three critically endangered Western lowland gorillas, one of four sub-species. The Zoo is part of an international and regional conservation program to maintain a genetically diverse troop that can support the conservation of wild gorilla populations.
Gorillas are native to Africa and are impacted by illegal poaching and habitat destruction from logging and mining, with conservation work of critical importance. Zoos Victoria assists the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International to address threats to gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park and Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda. This includes the development of projects that provide sustainable alternatives to hunting wildlife and extracting timber from the forests.
Zoos Victoria and Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors are reminded that all tickets must be pre-booked online at zoo.org.au. Zoos Victoria Members no longer need to book but are required to scan their Membership card for entry.