Congo Gorilla Forest Celebrates 10 Years and $10.6 Million Raised for Central African Parks

Cupcakes for the Gorillas Photo
Layla participates in an enrichment experience in the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest, munching a healthy corn “cupcake,” as the landmark exhibit celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
Cupcakes for the Gorillas Photo
Baby Johari participates in an enrichment experience in the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest, with a healthy corn “cupcake,” as the landmark exhibit turns 10 this month.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
Cupcakes for the Gorillas Photo
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

  • Exhibit Turns 7 Million Visitors into Conservationists
  • The Bronx Zoo Congo Gorilla Forest Exhibit Showcases How Zoo and Global Conservation Field Work Can Make a Difference Together
  • Come Celebrate with the Gorillas: Educational and Fun Activities Scheduled in June and July

Bronx, NY – June 24, 2009 – WCS announced today that the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest, celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, has raised more than $10.6 million which has gone directly to fund the conservation of Central Africa’s Congo Basin rainforest and wildlife. Since it opened in 1999, 7 million visitors have visited the groundbreaking exhibit, which allows zoo guests to donate their admission fees to WCS field conservation efforts in Central Africa. 

“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.”

Said Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo and WCS Sr. Vice President of Living Institutions: “We invite all to visit the Bronx Zoo to help us celebrate the tenth 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.”

The more than $10.6 million in donations has helped to create eighteen national parks in Africa. The 18 parks 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. Thirteen of these parks were created in Gabon, alone, covering 11 percent of that nation’s land.

The award-winning exhibit takes 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. 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.

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.

From its inception, the Congo Gorilla Forest was designed to raise funds and awareness of the plight of gorillas in Africa. 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 sub-species 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.

Much of WCS’s groundbreaking 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 is celebrating the ten-year anniversary 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. For five weeks, on Fridays and Saturdays from June 20-July 19 the following events are scheduled:
  • Congo dancing and drum music from the Harambee Dance troupe. The dancers will parade through the park and end up at Congo Gorilla Forest where they will perform a variety of authentic Congo dances. 12, 2, and 4 pm
  • Griot interactive African storytelling with musicians. These storytellers will tell the animal stories that are part of the rich tradition of Africa. 11:30, 1:30,  and 3:30 pm
  • Lunch with the Gorillas – Gorilla keepers will provide a midday snack to rally the troops. Accompanied by commentary from our Wildlife Theater. Gorilla Gallery 2 pm
  • Tour the Congo – our Friends of the Zoo volunteers will provide tours for 45 people on a first come, first served basis. 11, 1, and 3pm
  • Crafts with the Museum for African Art – Join skilled artisans for interactive crafts featuring basket weaving, gourds, beads or masks – Dancing Crane Plaza – 11:00, 11:40 am, and 1:00, 1:40, 2:20, 3:00, 3:40 pm
This is an exhibit that could not have existed without the generous funding provided by its supporters.

Awards Recognizing the Exhibit
The exhibit has been recognized many times throughout its history, including winning the American Association of Museums’ Exhibition Excellence Award; the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Exhibit Award (now the Association of Zoos & Aquariums); and the Association of Zoological Horticulture’s Conservation Award.

The Bronx Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays through November 2, 2009.  Adult admission is $15, children (3-12 years old) $11, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $13. Parking is $12 for cars and $16 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit www.bronxzoo.com or call 718-367-1010.

Congo Gorilla Forest 10th Anniversary Fact Sheet – 2009


Contact: Danna Goldman Schoenberg: 718.220 5182/danna@wcs.org
                Steve Fairchild:  718.220.5189/sfairchild@wcs.org


The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.     

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to www.wcs.org/donation.

WCS in the Field
To learn more about WCS conservation efforts in Africa and around the world, visit www.wcs.org for more information.

~/media/Images/wcs org/forms/please donate to help conservation.png
Stay in touch with WCS and receive the latest news.