The Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester is set to open a new 360,000 cubic foot habitat for its six gorillas this summer, zoo officials said.
The new habitat will cost $8.1 million, collected via anonymous donors before the onset of the pandemic last year, according to Colleen McCormick Blair, a spokeswoman for the Franklin Park Zoo. The habitat will feature real and fabricated trees, a waterfall, climbing vines, and a “multitude of built-in foraging opportunities,” Blair said in a statement.
The features of the habitat will allow the gorillas to move around “three-dimensionally,” the statement said, and allow visitors to see them in an environment more closely mirroring their natural habitat. The habitat is constructed to foster the natural dynamics and social interactions of the gorilla family.
The western lowland gorillas — Little Joe, Kitombe, his mate Kiki, and their three offspring — Kambiri, Azize, and Pablo — will live in the new exhibit.
“We are thrilled to open the new outdoor gorilla exhibit, which will be an enriching experience not just for the gorillas, but for our guests as well,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England president. “We want to reach people through their hearts to build empathy for wildlife and habitats. As you observe the tender moments between a gorilla mom and her baby, or gorilla siblings playing together, you develop a better understanding of the family dynamics and social structure of these animals.”
Zoo New England is a part of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan, which aims to “ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered, and enhance conservation of these species in the wild,” according to the statement.
Western lowland gorillas and western gorillas are considered critically endangered species, the statement said.