Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Gorilla family get a £1m upgrade

A gorilla sits on the glass roof of the new viewing area in the extended Gorilla House at Bristol Zoo
Jock, one of Bristol Zoo's gorillas, lies on the glass roof of the new viewing area

A family of gorillas have been upgraded to a £1 million home in order to cope with their growing brood.

Their new enclosure at Bristol Zoo Gardens - which is being completed in three phases - will boast climbing facilities, ropes, play equipment and an indoor pool.

Renovation work began in July last year and the first phase has just been completed, meaning the zoo's seven western lowland gorillas can move in.

Keepers say the gorillas have already been enjoying their new enclosure, which is double the size of their last home. A new atrium-style glass entrance has been fitted, along with an overhead glass panel allowing visitors to watch the gorillas walking above.

Kukena, who was born at the zoo two years ago, has already been spotted using the glass to slide on and perform roly-polys.

Lynsey Bugg, assistant curator of mammals at the zoo, said the project had been tricky to manage as the house had been rebuilt while the gorillas lived there. "Good communication between the construction team and the keepers has been essential," she said. "The builders have been brilliant at letting us know in advance the schedule of the build, so that we could prepare our activities around it. We have worked hard to help the builders, whilst maintaining the needs of the gorillas, which has been no mean feat."

Bristol Zoo Gardens decided to upgrade the enclosure to help cater for the family of gorillas, which has been growing in recent years.

The first phase of work was the largest part of the transformation, as it involved a redesign of the right side of the original building. Keepers had to keep 32-stone Jock and his family away from the building work, which was difficult in winter weather as the gorillas could not go outside.

The seven gorillas were seen to stick close together when work began but relaxed after a couple weeks. Ms Bugg added: "After a short period of trying to suss out their new housemates, the gorillas soon became accustomed to watching the builders go about their work. Jock, our 30-year-old silverback, could quite often be found watching the builders and keepers quickly learnt that Jock liked to see what was going on and oversee the work. Salome, mum to Kukena our almost two-year-old gorilla, also enjoyed having the builders to watch every day."

The first phase of the gorilla house will be open to the public on Saturday, with the two other phases due for completion by early 2014.

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