Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

Seven western lowland gorillas will soon arrive in Houston in preparation for the grand opening of the new gorilla habitat at the Houston Zoo, opening Memorial Day weekend.  The intricately designed space will hold two groups of western lowland gorillas who will spend their days alternating between an outdoor habitat filled with lush landscape that mimics an African forestand a multi-tiered night house that includes private bedrooms, an artistic 23-foot-tall climbing tree, and a behind-the-scenes outdoor yard.

These magnificent animal ambassadors offer the opportunity to increase awareness and inspire conservation action to protect their wild counterparts. The Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts for these species will also be communicated through interpretive messages and interactive experiences that reinforce compelling education programs.

Once open to the public, guests will be able to see the gorillas through many different areas of the habitat. From an arrival building with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the dry river bed, to an open boardwalk alongside the gorilla’s naturalistic forest, guests will also see the gorillas inside their state-of-the-art night house.


Photo Credit: Richard Rokes

The first to arrive in the Bayou City will be a troop of male gorillas from Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC. Chaka (30), Mike (23) and Ajari (14) are scheduled to arrive this week. Chaka and Mike lived at the Riverbanks Zoo since July 2004 when the pair arrived from Philadelphia Zoo in Pennsylvania. Ajari joined them in January 2013 from Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee. Mike, one of the three gorillas making the move, has a cardiac condition that will require attention throughout his trip and upon arrival. The Houston Zoo and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden have worked closely to create a travel and health monitoring plan to ensure all three gorillas will arrive safely in Houston.  The group is also working closely with the Great Ape Heart Project based at Zoo Atlanta to develop a long-term medical plan which may include medication and possibly an implanted monitoring device.

The bachelor trio will alternate spaces at the Houston Zoo with a family troop of three gorillas who will arrive in March from Louisville, KY and a single female who will join the family troop from Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.


Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

Zuri (31), Holli (25) and their daughter Sufi (13) are arriving in Houston from the Bronx Zoo after a nine month stay at the Louisville Zoo. Binti (40) from Audubon Zoo has been chosen to join the family troop as a part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperation between Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) accredited zoos and aquariums to properly manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population.

The endangered western lowland gorilla faces many threats.  Their native habitat in central and west Africa is shrinking largely due to the expansion of mining and agriculture in the area. The already dwindling population faces the added threat from hunting. As one of man’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom, their highly social nature and intelligence make them prime ambassadors to educate our community about the threats faced by all gorillas and the conservation work currently undertaken by the Houston Zoo. Staff works in tandem with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) to improve the health of remaining gorilla populations through improved human health for veterinarians and conservation workers as well as rural communities. Active health programs and education are fostering a better understanding of an appreciation for the natural world for those living near these endangered apes. The zoo staff also works with the Conservation Heritage-Turambe project and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation (GRACE) Center.

7 Responses to “Houston Zoo Prepares to Welcome New Gorillas”

  1. Maria Robinson says:


    Hi, my name is Maria and I live in California at the present time. I watch the “chimps” almost every day, and I totally adore them and the things they do! In the near future, I’d like to donate about $10.00 a month for them and I know this is not much, but I only live on S S I right now. But, I’d like that donation to go towards feeding the Chimps something a little different; like fruits and/or nuts once in a while. I always see them eating lettuce and I do not seem to see any variety in their diet; is this because of lack of funds or something else?

    It will really thrill my soul to see those beautiful and intelligent chimps eating some apples or bananas once in a while; also some nuts from time to time.

    Thank you_ Maria 🙂

    • Ryan Draper says:

      Hi Maria,
      Thanks for your comment. Don’t worry, our animals receive a robust diet, and they probably eat better than most humans! Specifically, the chimpanzees receive greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, and more! The fruit is cut up into small pieces and spread throughout the habitat so the chimps have to forage as they would in the wild. Thanks again for reaching out. Have a great day!

  2. Susan says:

    I have met a friend at Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens for several years and have enjoyed seeing Chaka, Mike and Ajari each week. We will miss them, but we know that they will be wonderful additions to your zoo.

  3. Linda Sanders says:

    My 3 children and I have visited the Houston Zoo dozens of times during the last 5 years. Although we know the zoo like the back of our hand, we never fail to renew our annual membership. We are all so excited about the gorillas’ arrivals. We can’t wait to learn more about these beautiful creatures. Thank you for making a difference for gorillas everywhere!
    – Linda Sanders

  4. Megan says:

    We visited the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans in October and my 2 year old son loved seeing the gorillas! Every time I tell him we are going to the Houston Zoo he asks if we will get to see gorillas and I am so excited to finally tell him, “yes, we will!”

  5. Laina says:

    Im extremely busy at work and when there are a few minutes downtime I love watching the Chimps and elephants! Very Relaxing! Will webcams also be with the Gorillas as well in the future?. My family and I certainly plan on visting this summer!

    Have a great day!

  6. Robyn says:

    Will Jane Goodall attend the grand opening of the primate habitat?

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