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Refreshed structures in the gorilla yard make for lots of shenanigans! Big thanks to our Exhibits crew!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

"Hello down there!" The view from the top of the trees in the east gorilla yard includes the Olympic range and the top of Space Needle.

On behalf of our gorilla keepers and the gorillas themselves, we’d like to send a heartfelt thank you and shout-out of gratitude to our AMAZING Exhibits team! This talented crew has spent nearly a month refreshing the structures in the east yard where western lowland gorilla Kwame and his family spend much of their time. (The gorillas spent time in their indoor and outdoor behind the scenes areas while the Exhibits team worked their magic.) The exhibit refresh included repairing and repainting two huge trees (25 and 30 feet tall), restringing hundreds of feet of vines and installing new hammocks for the gorillas to lounge on.

On the left, a member of our Exhibits crew works on a platform supported by special scaffolding to put the finishing touches on one of the tall trees. On the right, 3-year-old Zuna tests her climbing skills on that same part of the tree and gives the new structure a hearty showing of approval.

The tall trees inside this naturalistic exhibit might look real, but they’re actually built with a sturdy steel core surrounded by concrete and rubber. This is to ensure they’re strong enough to support the weight of any of our gorillas whether it be several rambunctious youngsters (our two youngest currently weigh in at around 55 and 75 pounds) all the way up to a 400+ pound silverback!

Our Exhibits crew constructed specialized scaffolding around the new trees to provide them with safe and sturdy platforms from which to work in the exhibit.

In order to reach all the parts of these trees, our dedicated crew had to construct specialized scaffolding around them to provide sturdy and safe platforms from which to work. The Exhibits team spent many hours expertly carving and painting these structures to look like real trees! And the vines throughout the exhibit, which allow the gorillas to climb all around their space, are reinforced with strong cores of twisted firehose coated with rubber and skillfully painted to resemble natural vines!

Four-year-old Kitoko and his little sister, three-year-old Zuna, couldn’t wait to test out all the new structures—jumping, climbing around, and chasing each other through the space. Kitiko even climbed to the very top of the tallest tree (at 30 feet up, his view would include the Olympics and the top of the Space Needle) where he confidently perched himself to engage in a practice session of chest-beating!

Kitoko practices his chest-beating!
Zuna tests out the new vines!

The gorilla keepers are so excited about all the new and refreshed structures in the exhibit and the gorillas themselves clearly approve of all of it too. Once again, we offer a huge thank you and many kudos to all the talented and dedicated members of our Exhibits team for all their hard work to make sure our gorillas have nothing but the very best structures in their habitat!