Congo Gorilla Forest

Congo Gorilla Forest Photo
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

The Bronx Zoo’s world-class Congo Gorilla Forest transports visitors into the heart of a Central African rainforest that’s home to some 400 animals of 55 species. It features one of the largest groups of western lowland gorillas in North America. Visitors can go nose-to-nose with the handsome silverbacks, watchful mothers, and playful youngsters inside the expansive Great Apes Gallery, which offers panoramic and intimate views of two troops. As zoogoers trek beneath a leafy canopy, past cool mists and trickling streams, they also encounter the rare rainforest giraffe known as okapi, a group of black and white colobus monkeys, and a family of red river hogs. A gallery of terrariums houses rock pythons, assassin bugs, and a host of other creatures that slither and crawl through the forest floor. WCS opened the 6.5-acre exhibit in 1999. It has since won many awards for its design, animal habitats, and horticulture. It is also among the world’s first zoo exhibit to directly give visitors a stake in wildlife conservation in the field.

Challenges

Central Africa’s wildlife populations suffer from numerous impacts of human activities, including poaching, the bushmeat trade, habitat destruction due to logging and civil unrest. Even here in New York City, our activities and decisions, such as whether we choose to recycle our cellphones (with batteries produced from an element mined in the Congo) or purchase furniture made from exotic wood, can impact the wildlife we treasure so far away. At Congo Gorilla Forest, we strive not only to introduce zoo visitors to the threats faced by our animals’ wild kin, but also to engage our guests as stakeholders in their preservation. Because the exhibit is one of the most popular attractions for two million annual visitors, our challenge is to communicate this message to a variety of audiences. Hands-on learning stations, in-depth graphics, and multimedia presentations help accomplish this goal.

What WCS is Doing

Congo Gorilla Forest connects zoogoers to our conservationists in the field who have studied gorillas in the Republic of Congo since the 1980s. The exhibit’s 60-seat Conservation Theater runs an 8-minute film, Saving Africa’s Forests, which takes visitors on an expedition to track wild gorillas and meet some of the dedicated WCS staff working to save them. In the Conservation Choices Gallery, touch-screen stations give visitors the opportunity to choose how their exhibit admission fee is spent in support of WCS fieldwork. Options include okapi, elephant, gorilla, and mandrill conservation projects. Since 1999, we have raised more than $10.6 million for conservation in Central Africa through these stations.

The classrooms of the on-site Flaherty Learning Center—complete with treetop views of mandrills and hornbills—serve as a living laboratory for students and other groups. Through the zoo’s education workshops, children and teens learn about the tools scientists use to study animals in the wild and embark on fieldwork expeditions of their own.

Behind the scenes, the exhibit also directly contributes to preservation of the various endangered species housed here. Our western lowland gorillas, mandrills, DeBrazza’s monkeys, black and white colobus, and okapis have raised several generations of youngsters through the years. These offspring have become key members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plans, which helps ensure healthy populations of select endangered species in zoos.

From the Newsroom

Chimp Haven Gets an UpgradeFebruary 16, 2012

The Republic of Congo formally expands Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to help protect a rare population of chimps, known for both their skillful tool use and greenness to people.

Tusk Smuggler Gets Tough SentenceAugust 18, 2011

The Republic of Congo sends a Chinese ivory smuggler to jail, an example of the tough law enforcement that WCS recommends for combating the illegal wildlife trade.  

Bronx Zoo-goers Raise Millions for African ParksJuly 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.

Fubo Gets a Brain ScanMarch 26, 2009

The Wildlife Conservation Society thanks The Brain Tumor Foundation and its “Road To Early Detection” campaign for their assistance in scanning the brain of a gorilla at the Bronx Zoo.

Motherlode of Gorillas Discovered in Central AfricaAugust 5, 2008

A new census finds a massive gorilla population previously unknown to scientists. WCS and the Government of Congo have tallied more than 125,000 western gorillas in the northern Republic of Congo. This is great news for the critically endangered western lowland gorilla, which had been believed to number only 50,000 in total.

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