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Gorilla Grove, a new outdoor habitat at Franklin Park Zoo, opens to public

Franklin Park Zoo opened Gorilla Grove, a new $9.1 million outdoor gorilla habitat, to the general public Tuesday.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

A new gorilla habitat at Franklin Park Zoo opened Tuesday, giving the zoo’s six gorillas more than 360,000 cubic feet to explore, officials said.

The new outdoor habitat, dubbed “Gorilla Grove,” cost $9.1 million and was funded by anonymous donors, according to a statement from Zoo New England. The habitat officially opened to the public following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning, officials said.

“We are so thrilled to open Gorilla Grove, which will be an enriching experience not just for the gorillas, but for our guests as well,” said John Linehan, president and CEO of Zoo New England, in the statement. “We strive to reach peoples’ minds through their hearts to build empathy for wildlife and their natural 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.”

The habitat was originally set to open last summer, but “a combination of pandemic-related supply chain delays and unforeseen construction delays” stalled the project, said Colleen McCormick Blair, a spokesperson for Zoo New England, in an e-mail.

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During the delays, the gorillas stayed in their indoor habitat in the Tropical Forest building at Franklin Park Zoo, she said.

The new habitat features “an immersive central observational outpost within the habitat,” Zoo New England said. Guests “will have a unique perspective for quiet reflection and observation,” according to the statement.

“With a mix of real and fabricated trees, a waterfall, climbing vines and a multitude of built-in foraging opportunities, the gorillas will have the ability to traverse the space three dimensionally,” the zoo said. “This space will enable guests to observe the natural behaviors and social dynamics of the gorilla family.”

Kiki with her baby Pablo at the Franklin Park Zoo's Gorilla Grove.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

According to the statement, Franklin Park Zoo is currently home to six Western lowland gorillas: Little Joe, Kitombe (Kit) and his mate, Kiki, and their three offspring Kambiri, Azize, and Pablo.

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Western lowland gorillas, as well as Western gorillas, are considered “critically endangered in the wild,” according to the statement.

Zoo New England is a participant in the Gorilla Species Survival Plan, which is an inter-zoo program that helps “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.

Little Joe banged on the glass at the zoo exhibit, startling visitor Kathy Cunningham, of Reading.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Material from prior Globe reports was used in this story.


Matt Yan can be reached at matt.yan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @matt_yan12.