The Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit in New York’s Bronx Zoo is home to 19 of the great apes and an assortment of other animals. It has also raised almost U.S. $11,000,000 for the conservation of Central Africa’s Congo Basin rain forest and wildlife, the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, said today.
WCS photos of Bronx Zoo gorillas celebrating tenth anniversary of exhibit by Julie Larsen Maher
“With this one exhibit, you can truly see the extraordinary power of the Bronx Zoo,” said Steven E. Sanderson, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Through its ten-year history, the Congo Gorilla Forest has turned millions of our visitors into conservationists and has helped directly to fund the protection of wildlife and wild places.”
Since it opened in 1999, seven million visitors have visited the exhibit, which allows zoo guests to donate their admission fees to WCS field conservation efforts in Central Africa. The donations have helped to create 18 national parks in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Gabon.
Protecting All Four Subspecies of Gorilla
“From its inception, the Congo Gorilla Forest was designed to raise funds and awareness of the plight of gorillas in Africa,” the conservation charity said. “Today, WCS is working with the national park services of Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to create and manage protected areas and protect all four subspecies of gorilla.
“WCS employs the world’s leading gorilla scientists who have implemented the most effective field programs in Africa. Wildlife Conservation Society veterinarians are collaborating with the foremost infectious disease experts to end the spread of Ebola and other wildlife diseases.”
The award-winning exhibit takes visitors through a misty outdoor rainforest, where the shy okapi blends in with the trees, WCS said in a caption accompanying thesew photos. “Then, visitors can catch glimpses of mandrills, red river hogs, and DeBrazza’s monkeys in the Judy and Michael Steinhardt Mandrill Forest.
“Finally, the Congo experience culminates in the C.V. Starr Conservation Theater and Lila Acheson Wallace Great Gorilla Forest. Separated from the gorillas only by glass, the visitor’s instinct is to touch the hand that looks so different, yet is so close.” Various parts of the exhibit have been named after the most generous donors.
The two troops of gorillas in residence at the Bronx Zoo form one of the largest breeding groups of western lowland gorillas in North America, WCS said. Through the years, 14 gorillas, 23 red river hogs, 11 Wolf’s guenons and four okapis have been born in the exhibit. “The WCS breeding programs for these species make significant contributions to the survival of their populations in zoos. This success is due to an immersing habitat and exceptional animal care and dedication.”
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of their exhibit, the 19 gorillas at the Bronx Zoo were given “cupcake” treats.
WCS photo by Julie Larsen Maher
Much of WCS’s work with gorillas in the wild is funded through the Biodiversity Program and Central Africa Program for the Environment of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Great Ape Conservation Funds of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Through these critical programs, sustainable management practices are brought to key landscapes like the Congo Basin protecting great ape populations while promoting sustainable development for the people of the Congo,” WCS said.
WCS is celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the Congo Gorilla Forest through a series of events sponsored by Bank of America, including guided tours, gorilla feeding times, African arts and crafts, traditional interactive African storytelling, and African dance and drum performances.
Said Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo and WCS Senior Vice President of Living Institutions: “We invite all to visit the Bronx Zoo to help us celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Congo Gorilla Forest. There is nothing more magical than meeting a gorilla face-to-face, eye-to-eye. This landmark exhibit has made a difference in conservation, in zoo exhibit design and in the lives of millions of Bronx Zoo visitors over the last ten years.”
WCS photo by Julie Larsen Maher