Bronx Zoo-goers Raise Millions for African Parks

July 9, 2009

As it celebrates its tenth anniversary, the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest has turned 7 million visitors into conservationists, and raised more than $10.6 million for conservation in Central Africa.

Loyal fans of Pattycake, Zuri, and the other members of the troops at the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest have made a massive contribution to the gorillas’ kin in the wild, according to a new figure released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). As the exhibit celebrates its tenth anniversary in July, WCS reports that zoo visitors have raised more than $10.6 million for conservation projects in Central Africa’s Congo Basin.

Since it opened in 1999, 7 million visitors have visited the swath of Congo rainforest at the Bronx Zoo. Touch screen stations in the exhibit’s Conservation Choices Gallery allow zoo-goers to choose how their exhibit admission fee is spent in support of WCS fieldwork. Options include okapi, elephant, gorilla, and mandrill conservation projects.

“With this one exhibit, you can truly see the extraordinary power of the Bronx Zoo,” said Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of WCS. “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.”

The funds have helped to create 18 national parks in Africa. These include Lopé, Waka, Birougou, Ivindo, Cristal Mountains, Mayumba, Loango, Batéké Plateau, Akanda, Pongara, Moukalaba Doudou, Mwagne, and Minkebe in Gabon; Mbam Djerem, Takamanda, and Deng Deng in Cameroon; Itombwe in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Nyungwe in Rwanda. The 13 parks created in Gabon alone cover 11 percent of the west-central African nation’s land.

Congo Gorilla Forest takes zoo visitors through a misty outdoor rainforest, where the shy okapi blends in with the trees. Then, visitors can catch glimpses of mandrills, red river hogs, and DeBrazza’s monkeys in the Judy and Michael Steinhardt Mandrill Forest. 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.

The exhibit has two troops of gorillas, numbering 19. It is one of the largest breeding groups of western lowland gorillas in North America. 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.

The exhibit has been recognized many times throughout its history, winning the American Association of Museums’ Exhibition Excellence Award, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Exhibit Award, and the Association of Zoological Horticulture’s Conservation Award.

Read the press release: Congo Gorilla Forest Celebrates 10 Years and $10.6 Million Raised for Central African Parks

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