Congo Gorilla ForestSue Chin (author), Monika Fiby (editor)
Wildlife Conservation Society
, 2300 Southern Boulevard
, Bronx, New York, NY 10460
Congo, colobus, conservation, gorilla, guenon, okapi, red river hog
2001 Assoc. of Zoological Horticulture Conservation Award
2001 Industrial Design Excellence Awards
2000 AZA Exhibit Award
2000 International Wildlife Film Festival's Best Non-Broadcast Film
2000 New York City Art Commission's Design Excellence award
1999 American Association of Museums' Exhibition Excellence Award
It is home to 400 animals of 55 species, including one of the largest breeding groups of lowland gorillas in North America. The Congo Gorilla Forest includes a two-story primary structure that houses animal management spaces, public exhibit galleries and the Flaherty Learning Center. There are five major exterior animal habitats for black and white colobus monkeys, gorillas, okapi with crested guinea fowl and mandrills with DeBrazza's monkeys and red river hogs.
In addition, there are 26 interior animal exhibits, including 17 small aquaria and terraria, larger habitats for African rock python, Nile monitors, and an African fish community aquarium. A skylighted space is divided into habitats for wolf's monkeys and a mixed group of african birds (silvery-cheeked hornbill, black crake, pygmy goose and green wood hoopoe) and fish.
The Flaherty Learning Center occupies 5000 s.f. (450 m2) of the main buildings' second level, and provides treetop views of mandrills, gorillas, birds and other wildlife from within special classroom and teacher training facilities.
Space allocation in square meters:
USD 43,000,000 including 11 % for design.Total costs include $5 million for design
Beginning: November 1996
The plant list specifies the Latin names of the plants used for this exhibit.
Large numbers of flexible vines worked into the matrix of artificial, living and deadfall trees, allow for responsive locomotion and creating aerial "highways" at primary viewing locations in all primate exhibits.
Feeding opportunities are built into the environment in several ways. In the Colobus, Mandrill/Hog and Gorilla exhibits, automated food dispensers are hidden in or behind rocks and trees in areas close to primary public viewpoints. A central control system allows animal managers to set and vary the frequency and timing of food dispersal. A large strangler fig/host tree in one of the gorilla exhibits incorporates a feeder that can be loaded from a door at a convenient height off of the ground, which transports the food items to the treetop, where a series of pipes randomly distributes the items to four different outlet points encouraging gorillas to climb. Artificial trees in all of Congo's exhibit areas have been outfitted with hidden holders, permitting freshly-cut browse to be placed within the context of the forest, where primates can eat while perched and okapis can be seen extending their remarkable tongues in reach of tender new growth. One of the most unique feeding opportunities in the exhibit is an artificial termite mound, built on both sides of the viewing glass and containing a remotely-operated mechanical feeder. Food is released into a hollow portion of the termite mound located on the visitors' side of the glass (actually an opening below a diagonal section of glass frame). To get at the food, the gorilla's must reach into the hollow, their hands entering the public side of the mound, where another angled piece of glass prevents the obvious. The sight of a gorillas hand inches away is quite dramatic, but even more exciting has been the way some of the smallest gorillas use the mound to climb above viewer's heads, and sometimes even crawl into the hollow to play "peek-a-boo" with visitors.
Another major design consideration was creating attractive microclimatic areas near viewing areas. An enormous hollow Ceiba tree constructed at the glass in the Great Apes Gallery provides shade, has heated pads built into the floor for cold days, and is cooled on hot days via a duct leading from the public space air conditioning system. The tree serves as part of the barrier system between the two gorilla exhibits, and contains a hidden transfer door that can be used to move individuals or groups from one space to the other, creating the opportunity for enrichment through rotation.
Special features were incorporated into the Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit and holding areas that enhance keeper safety and provide for close management of the animal collection. Five key elements are: (1) 32 closed circuit TV camera mounts and 16 cameras placed throughout the holding areas and exhibits to allow for remote monitoring of the animal collection, particularly when they are in their spacious outdoor habitats; (2) welded mesh steel doors in holding areas that allow for partitioning the building and keeper visibility into animal alleys prior to entering these areas; (3) a building-wide smoke detector and sprinkler system for fire safety; (4) no dead-end corridors; (5) double doors or gates at all entrances to the primate facilities.
The Living Treasures of the Congo Gallery featuring 21 exhibits of small animals, each illustrating a significant scientific word or phrase.
The Interconnected Forest Gallery which offers views of outdoor mandrill/red river hog and indoor Wolf's monkey and aviary habitats.
The Threats to the Forest and Conservation Showcase containing interactive and audio-visual exhibits featuring WCS conservation efforts in Central Africa.
The Conservation Theater featuring an 8-minute film, shot on location in Africa, dramatically demonstrating conservation strategies in action. At the film's conclusion, the screen rises and curtains part, revealing a lush outdoor hillside with a family of gorillas through a wide expanse of glass.
The Great Apes Gallery offers panoramic and intimate views of two troops of gorillas; visitors exit the Great Apes Gallery via a glass-sided tunnel-Gorilla Encounter-that penetrates directly through a section of the larger outdoor gorilla habitat.
The Conservation Choices Gallery where visitors are encouraged to engage in conservation decision-making. Each visitor may select a specific aspect of an ongoing WCS African rain forest conservation project to support with their exhibit admission.
With significant National Science Foundation support, a front-end study and eight formative evaluations were conducted to gauge comprehension and effectiveness of various exhibit elements including two interactive exhibits, a CD ROM program and an eight-minute feature film.
As a result of close examination of the audience, the exhibit layout and interpretive elements directly address the questions, interests and knowledge base of our visitors. Although summative evaluation is currently a work in progress, anecdotal information, informal observation, visitor comments and press reviews have shown that many visitors are responding positively to the Congo Gorilla Forest experience.
The management objective entailed a combination of lush spacious habitats and roomy sky-lit bedroom areas for each troop to return to in the evening, creating an environment that would improve animal welfare, enhance the expression of species-specific behaviors, and ultimately increase reproduction.
Off-exhibit Animal Management spaces include: two tall, skylighted gorilla community dayrooms, eight interconnected shift spaces, two gorilla quarantine spaces, three outdoor gorilla holding cages , seven mandrill/guenon holding spaces, two smaller mandrill/guenon isolation areas, two outdoor small primate yards which can also be used by red river hogs, four interior red river hog stalls, five interior okapi stalls , and two outdoor okapi yards.
A keeper office, gorilla nursery, locker rooms, storage areas, kitchen with walk-in freezer and refrigerator, and mechanical spaces are also part of the complex.
But it is the final experience offered in this exhibit that takes our guests to a place no zoo visitor has gone before. After engaging them in the beauty and wonder of the animals, and informing them about the threats to the animals and their habitats, we then provide each visitor with a way to respond and to do something.
The Conservation Choice-an opportunity to pick a specific conservation project to support with the admission fee-is not only a new experience at the Bronx Zoo but new for all zoo/museum exhibits. Over $3 million in direct support for African rain forest conservation has been raised by this exhibit since opening day.
Congo's spacious habitats and flexible holding spaces will enable the Bronx Zoo to participate in and strengthen commitments to SSP programs for gorillas, mandrills, DeBrazza's monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and okapis.
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