Werribee Open Range Zoo is home to one of the largest gorilla exhibits in the world.
At 6,000 square metres, the spectacular exhibit – complete with wading pool and large climbing poles – allows silverback Motaba and his two sons, Yakini and Ganyeka, the space to behave as they would in the wild.
With several viewing platforms, the exhibit offers visitors the chance to watch these magnificent creatures as they go about their daily lives, from a variety of angles.
A play space mirroring the gorillas’ climbing areas invites children to climb tree trunks and ropes, imagining themselves as gorillas.
It’s not all fun and games, though: we also invite our visitors to educate themselves about the plight of gorillas in the wild.
Meet the gorillas
Motaba is the boys’ father. He is a rather serious character, who takes his role as group leader very seriously. His acts as peacekeeper and protector, sorting out any disagreements within the group. He is very alert to any potential dangers, making sure that he and his boys remain safe.
Motaba has a good relationship with both of his boys, but is particularly fond of Ganyeka. Their relationship blossomed from when Ganyeka was a very young gorilla. He would constantly try to get his father to play with him – unlike his siblings, who were more intimidated by Motaba.
Motaba now likes to play with the boys, often chasing and wrestling with them. He gets excited in the rain, running and ‘displaying’. (Maybe it reminds him of growing up in the Channel Islands!)
He dislikes the vets (or anyone resembling one) and because of his role as protector, he can be quite untrusting. This means it takes a long time and a lot of effort to build a good relationship with him. One of his favourite pastimes is eating, particularly dried fruit and lettuces.
Yakini is a bit of a quiet achiever. He gives his dad a wide berth, but will take any opportunity to assert his dominance over his little brother when Motaba is not around. He observes situations and seems to be a bit of a political thinker.
Over the last few months, he has really started to gain weight: weighing 112 kilograms, he is beginning to look more like an adult. He spends a lot of time wrestling and laughing with his little brother. Yakini takes a little while to learn new things, but is very excited when he does.
Ganyeka is quite a character. He is cheeky and very intelligent. He is the one who will work out puzzles and make tools from sticks. He loves to learn new things and doesn`t give up too easily. He has no problem acting the fool – when he’s excited, he likes to spin on his back and shake his head laughing.
Ganyeka often instigates play with his father and brother by throwing straw at them, or jumping up and down in front of them until they chase him.
He is particularly fond of one of our keepers, Jason, and will play with him very energetically.