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Gorillas go ape over new Werribee home

December 2, 2011
The Werribee Open Range Zoo has recently welcomed three male gorillas into one of the largest gorilla exhibits in the world.
Patriarch Motaba, 27, and sons Yakini, 11, and Ganyeka, 10, are making the most of a new 6,000 metre2 gorilla house and splash pool at the $3.6 million Gorillas Calling exhibit.
Relocated from Melbourne Zoo the trio now live in a custom made enclosure featuring innovative design elements, amazing viewing platforms (from where they launch themselves at visitors lining up to watch them) and play areas.
Interactive displays highlight the plight of gorillas in the wild and the threats to their habit by illegal coltan mining - a mineral used in the production of mobile phones.
Werribee Open Range Zoo Director Sally Lewis states "this exhibit is an important regional holding facility for bachelor males who may be called upon for breeding at other zoos in future.
"While it is unlikely that Motaba will be required for more breeding as his bloodline is well represented in the breeding program, Yakini and Ganyeka may be needed in future."
Lewis added that more males might join the group later.
Prior to opening, the steel fences surrounding the enclosure at Werribee Zoo were tested by professional climbers to see if they were escape-proof. The fences were subsequently reinforced after the climbers managed to breach the perimeter in seconds.
Award-winning climber James Kassay of Bayside Indoor Rock Climbing, proved the area was penetrable after clawing under the fence and then scampering along the wall to reach an area the gorillas should not access.
Yakini has previously proved himself an adept escape artist, escaping from his enclosure at Melbourne Zoo two years ago by grabbing a low-hanging palm frond to climb over a wall.
Yakini went walkabout for 20 minutes, looking at other animals, before keepers lured him back.
Werribee Zoo Life Science Supervisor explained that "they have very long arms and big hands and with their strength, we had to make sure they won't be able to get out at any point."
The Gorillas were briefly removed from display last week following a small land slip in the enclosure caused by recent torrential rain.
The area has now been repaired.

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