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Gorillas In Captivity

Gorillas In Captivity

Daniel Simmonds (Zookeeper) gives expert video advice on: What kind of environment do gorillas like?; How has our understanding of gorillas changed over the years?; What is the biggest threat to gorillas today? and more...

What kind of environment do gorillas like?

Gorillas live in the wild in central africa. Its a very humid environment there and they're quite happy there. But interestingly Gorillas in captivity, certainly in places like Zedisil London, the center of London where our climate is massively different than central africa, Gorillas in captivity are also very happy in their environment and are adjusting incredibly well to different climates, very much like human beings.

How does the modern gorilla enclosure compare with the past?

The enclosure that the gorillas used to have at ZSL London Zoo was a very functional exhibit, very good for the animals. In fact, the animals were really quite happy there. But the move forward for ZSL London is to provide, wherever possible, a cageless environment for the animals and that's what we've got here at the gorilla kingdom that opened in march 2007. So it's still a very freshly, very new exhibit that cost more than 5 million pounds to build. It's a large island surrounded by water, but with no cages. So it's a fully open environment for the animals. And that's the thing that we're trying to do for as many species as possible in the zoo.

How has our understanding of gorillas changed over the years?

Our understanding of gorillas has changed a lot over the years and will continue to do so in the coming years, because scientists in the field constantly study the gorillas. We, as zoo keepers, are constantly also studying them in captivity and we all pool our knowledge, whether it be between field workers and zoo keepers, or even between different zoos. It is very important to have that open level of information on gorillas so we can all share it and benefit from it, but ultimately so the gorillas can benefit from it. So I would say compared to perhaps 20 years ago, we're massively more advanced in our understanding of gorillas, their habitats, and their needs. But I expect that 20 years from now we'll be equally more advanced in our understanding of these amazing animals.

How long do gorillas live?

The record for a gorilla living in captivity was an animal in Philadelphia Zoo that lived to 54. But generally speaking you could say that a captive animal will live for anything into sort of late 40s or early 50s. In the wild we dont know how long gorillas live because records only began sort of less than 30 years ago, so we've got a while to go until we know. But I think we can probably safely say that wild gorillas, as with most wild animals, compared to their captive cousins will live slightly less simply because they don't have the access to the healthcare, the guaranteed food, and the lack of predators like captive gorillas do.

How well do gorillas breed in captivity?

Gorillas breed really well in captivity. The main thing to remember is that gorillas are, in a way, similar to humans. They don't necessarily always get on straight away, so when new gorillas are introduced to each other it can take months and months to get them used to each other. But when the gorillas finally click, they usually and hopefully breed very well.

Are gorillas an endangered species?

Yes gorillas are an endangered species. There are about three important types of gorillas that are endangered. The first one is the Westalovian gorillas - there are only about 100,000 now in the world. Secondly the Eastalovian gorillas, where there are only 10,00 now. Lastly, the gorillas from Uganda as there are only 500 in number now in the world. They are all extremely endangered.

What is the biggest threat to gorillas today?

The biggest threat to gorillas is man. It's quite simple. Man is hunting gorillas on this very day and have been for many years for bush meat. That's for meat to consume and to be sold in the mass markets, both in Africa and internationally. Man also contributes to the gorillas' habitat destruction. Central Africa is very, very rich in a number of minerals and also the logging industry is enormous there. So, in one way or another the habitat is reducing. As well as being hunted, this combination of threats to the gorillas is unfortunately reducing the number of gorillas in the wild.

Can you adopt a gorilla?

You can adopt a gorilla ZSL Zoo. All you need to do is visit the website, which is www.zslzoo.org and on there you can adopt a range of different animals, but you can certainly adopt our gorillas here.