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Gorillas in midst of capital get new rainforest home

AS the mercury hit 25 degrees Celsius yesterday, this particular gorilla population could be forgiven for thinking they were in their native West Africa.

Dublin Zoo can't guarantee the weather but everything else about its new 'Gorilla Rainforest' is designed to make the apes feel very much at home.

A gorilla dad and his two partners, complete with offspring, prowled contentedly about yesterday morning as outgoing President Mary McAleese did the honours.

She had insisted she would like to say a special goodbye to her nearest, and most unusual, Phoenix Park neighbours.

Against a lush background of shrubbery and exotic plant life, Mrs McAleese was on hand to open the zoo's latest facility, which lies just down the road from her official residence.

In a double celebration, the zoo also announced the birth of a new baby gorilla. The female infant was born earlier this month, just days after the gorillas were moved to their new home.

Spanning an impressive 12,000 square metres, the new habitat is now home to an ever-expanding gorilla population.


High rocky outcrops and sprawling trees provide the exotic animals with a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, while streams and dense vegetation makes this the perfect "home away from home" for these African gorillas.

Of course, some of them are now fully fledged 'Irish citizens' thanks to the successful mating policy operated by the zoo authorities in recent years.

"Today marks the culmination of years of planning," said Dublin Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel. "Every detail of this wonderful rainforest has been thought through carefully to resemble as closely as possible the gorilla's natural habitat.

"This new home should encourage them to continue breeding and to encourage their natural behaviours giving visitors to Dublin Zoo the most amazing gorilla experience."

Dublin Zoo has housed western lowland gorillas for many years and has developed a high level of expertise in the care of the species.

It is now home to a breeding group of seven healthy gorillas -- the most recent being Kituba, a baby boy who was born earlier this year.

Because of plummeting population in the wild, and the fact that western lowland gorillas are listed as critically endangered, successful mating is vital in a zoo environment.

Dublin Zoo has yet to name the latest addition to its troop, who was born earlier this month. Enthusiasts can post their suggestions on www. facebook.com/dublinzoo

Irish Independent