Belfast Telegraph

Zoo to recreate gorilla rainforest

Dublin Zoo has unveiled plans for a massive revamp of one of its oldest enclosures to create a gorilla rainforest.

The new landscape, slightly smaller than the Croke Park playing pitch, will have streams, dense vegetation, small hills and rocky outcrops mimicking the animals' wild environment.

Zoo chiefs are also planning forest paths with special hidden viewing points for visitors to see the western lowland gorillas.

Leo Oosterweghel, zoo director, said the 12,000m sq home will encourage a more natural way of life for the animals. He said: "This development has been a few years in the planning and when completed will be the envy of zoos everywhere.

"The western lowland gorillas are beautiful animals and the spacious 12,000 square metre habitat we are creating will provide the gorillas with a home that allows the troop to continue breeding and to encourage natural behaviours. The Dublin Zoo Gorilla Rainforest will be regarded as one of the world's best homes for gorillas."

The two million euro year-long development is scheduled to start in September next year and will replace the ageing enclosure opened in the 1970s. It will be home to a troop of five led by silverback Harry, a 14-year-old zoo staff describe as a relaxed dominant male and a good father.

Mother Lena is two years older and between them they care for nine-year-old Mayani, born in Barcelona Zoo and hand reared in Stuttgart before arriving in Dublin four years ago. They also care for mammy's boy Alfie, a seven-year-old said to be a bit of a loner sometimes, and the baby of the group, mischievous Evindi, aged four, who likes play fighting with the others.

Dr Oosterweghel said: "Visitors to Dublin Zoo will be in for an amazing experience and will see an unrivalled example of gorillas in their natural habitat. Observation points will be hidden along the forest paths to allow visitors to observe the animals.

"At the heart of all our development plans over the last decade or more was the desire that our visitors would leave Dublin Zoo having been inspired to learn more about wildlife and conservation and the part they play in conserving the natural world for the future."

The zoo has been home to western lowland gorillas for years and the troop is now regarded as a functioning group and part of a precious breeding population of 400 animals in European zoos.

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