Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Honor our "troops" of western lowland gorillas—and welcome the 2 newest recruits!
Gorillas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park
Guests can see our growing family (troop) of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla, gorilla, gorilla) on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail at Disney's Animal Kingdom park. Guests can learn more about The Walt Disney Company’s commitment to conservation by experiencing Backstage Tales, a behind-the-scenes tour of the animal facilities offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.
Gorillas in the Wild
Gorillas can be found in 8 different countries across central and western Africa, typically in lowland tropical rainforests with dense ground-level herbaceous growth. There are 2 gorilla species, western gorilla and eastern gorilla, each with 2 subspecies—one that lives in the lowlands, one that lives at higher elevations.
Threats to Western Lowland Gorillas
The western lowland gorilla is listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since the early 1980s, disease, habitat loss and illegal hunting of gorillas have decimated populations in many otherwise intact forests.
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of gorillas and their natural habitats. Find out what Disney is doing for these gentle giants—and how you can help, too!
“An amazing thing happens when people have the chance to come face-to-face with wildlife. They feel a strong connection, and are motivated to take action to protect wildlife and wild places and the environment.” – Dr. Jackie Ogden, former VP, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks
Gorillas depend on central African forests to survive, but those tropical habitats are starting to disappear. And even greater threats are now looming.
Threatened on Every Side
Habitat loss is causing gorilla populations to decline. Deforestation in central Africa is driven by economic pressures like commercial logging, agricultural expansion and the increased mining of coltan and other metals that are needed to produce modern electronics. Another threat is from poaching—the illegal commercial hunting of gorillas for their meat. “Bushmeat” is considered a delicacy among some urban human populations, and demand for it is rising. Since the early 1990s, infectious diseases like Ebola have also been crippling gorilla populations.
Disney Is Helping Gorillas in the Wild
Gorillas are among our closest relatives, yet they are threatened as a result of human activities. Grauer’s gorillas are endangered great apes found in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their populations have dwindled due to a combination of habitat loss, fragmentation, bushmeat hunting and capture for the illegal wildlife pet trade. Disney’s support helps nonprofit organizations work on conservation strategies, including engaging local communities to reduce hunting and reintroducing rehabilitated apes back into the wild.
Rescuing Gorilla Orphans
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, funding from Disney Conservation Fund helped the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International open the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE). The center is devoted to rescuing gorillas that have been orphaned by poaching and animal trafficking. Young gorillas are brought to GRACE to live in a family unit alongside other orphaned gorilla orphans, allowing them to learn the social and survival skills needed for later reintroduction back into the wild. Disney helped design and build the GRACE Center and continues to send Disney animal care experts, veterinarians and education specialists to work with the gorillas and offer training to GRACE’s animal care and education staff.
Fifth Baby Gorilla Born at Disney!
Since 1997, 5 western lowland gorillas have been born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park—2 of them in 2014! Disney participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan for gorillas, which promotes the genetic diversity of the species through detailed records of individual animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and other AZA-accredited zoos. Two of our gorillas have already been relocated to other zoos as part of the plan!
The gorilla habitats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park are based on extensive research into the species’ natural history.
A lush and sprawling tropical forest—complete with hills, tall grasses, shade trees, rocks, shrubs, waterfalls, dead trees and stumps—provides opportunities for our troops of gorillas to rest, communicate, interact, hide and explore just as they would in the wild. As in the wild, our gorillas enjoy a complex diet that includes over 100 different varieties of fresh plants, vegetables and fruits, plus vitamin and mineral supplements and a specially formulated primate chow. Popular food items are rotated daily to keep the animals guessing what will be on the day’s menu!
Enrichment is a guiding principle for our animal care experts. Their goal is to create opportunities that encourage gorillas to interact with their environment and display natural behaviors like playing, nesting and foraging for food. Items like tubs, bags, blankets, toys and puzzle feeders are staged around their habitat at various times each day, and often contain food to encourage natural foraging and object manipulation. These enrichment tools are designed to increase the gorillas’ physical activity, stimulate their problem-solving abilities and offer them real choices, just like in the wild.
Veterinary Care: We Heart Gorillas
Heart disease can be a serious concern with zoo gorillas. But how do you get a 450-pound silverback male to stand still for a heart exam? Luckily, our “patients” are intelligent and cooperative! The gorillas participate in their own preventive health care, from cardiac and fetal ultrasounds to blood pressure measurements, injections and physical therapy. Through verbal cues, hand signals and special rewards like fruit, gorillas learn to present their chests to a special area for an echocardiogram, with the animal care experts only inches away—on the other side of a safety barrier, of course. Previously, heart exams required sedating the gorillas, which made the test results less accurate. Today, Disney’s pioneering veterinary work with gorillas is being adopted by other zoos—and has been incorporated into The Gorilla Health Project by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)!
Gorillas are an amazing mix of contradictions—large and powerful yet gentle and peaceful, even shy! And almost human.
Big and Tall
Gorillas are the largest primates, with males weighing up to 450 lbs (204 kg) and standing up to 6 feet tall (2 m) when upright. The upper body strength of an adult male gorilla is 6 times more powerful than that of an adult human!
Their size can be intimidating, but gorillas by nature are quiet, gentle and peaceful. If provoked, the dominant male will bare his teeth, beat his chest and even charge—but that’s his job, after all, protecting the troop!
Gorillas are charismatic, intelligent, highly social animals who share 98.3% of our DNA. Like us they have 32 teeth, pregnancies that last 8 ½ months, 5 fingers with fingernails on each hand—and opposable thumbs.
Unlike humans, gorillas also have opposable big toes that can deftly pick up and manipulate objects, and noses that are so unique—no two are alike—that researchers use nose shapes to identify gorillas in the wild.
Walk This Way
Gorillas are quadrupeds, typically walking on all fours with their fingers curled under, called knuckle-walking. Like all apes, their arms are longer than their legs, which helps support the weight of their head and chest.
Adult males are called silverbacks due to the gray hair they develop on their backs when they mature. When excited or threatened, a gorilla will beat its chest—cupping its hands to maximize the volume!
Western lowland gorillas are skilled foragers who enjoy a low-fat, high-fiber, high-protein herbivore diet. But occasionally they take a break from their vegan diet to indulge in a tasty treat of ants or termites.
Growing Up Ape
Gorillas are born small (4 to 5 pounds) and cling to the mother’s front for the first 6 months. They then travel on mom’s back—when not nursing or traveling short distances—and are weaned around 3 years old.
The Troop Scoop
Gorillas live in family groups of 2 to 30 members with one silverback leader and several unrelated females and their young. Blackback males stay in the group until maturity, then leave to form their own groups.
Gorillas are one of the few animals that laugh out loud when playing. They use body language, gestures and facial expressions to communicate, and up to two dozen different sounds and vocalizations, from grunts to whines.
Protect the gorilla’s forest habitats by using your mobile phone for as long as possible, and recycling it when you’re done!
What can you do to help gorillas? Plenty!
Recycle your old mobile devices, laptops, MP3 players, tablets, video game systems to reduce mining in gorilla habitats.
Buy Tree-Friendly Products
Protect the forests by purchasing wood and paper products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (look for this FSC logo), and buy shade-grown coffee and items made from sustainable bamboo.
Show Your Support
Help endangered species like gorillas, tigers, elephants and rhinos by purchasing the “Save Vanishing Species” post office.
Follow the Story
Learn about great apes by watching the Disneynature film Chimpanzee, the true story of the young primate cousin of the gorilla.
Visit the Websites Below
See how Disney is protecting gorillas, wildlife and wild places—and how you can make a difference, too!
“I have learned from the animal world, and what everyone will learn who studies it, is a renewed sense of kinship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.” – Walt Disney