Western Lowland Gorilla

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Brothers Nzinga and Bangori comprise the “bachelor troop” at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

NZINGA

  • Born May 22, 1998, at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas
  • Name (in-ZING-gah) comes from a 16th-century king of the Congo who fought against slavery
  • Is older and the dominant of the two brothers
  • Gives keepers impatient grumbles in the mornings, otherwise, he’s a “strong silent type”
  • Likes to climb the olive tree and look for any little bit of new growth that he can find

BANGORI

  • Born February 18, 2004, at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas
  • Shares the same parents as Nzinga
  • Is named (ban-GORE-ee) for a stream in Central Africa
  • Very vocal, and “rumbles” when he is content
  • Is “laid back” and doesn’t mind strangers

Did you know?

The scientific name for Western lowland gorilla is: Gorilla gorilla gorilla. They are 4–5.5 feet tall when standing on two legs and can weigh more than 400 pounds.

Why Just the Boys?

All-male “bachelor troops” play a critical role in the development of young male gorillas.  In the wild, teenage males leave their birth families and join a bachelor troop until they are old enough to establish a family troop of their own. Nzinga and Bangori had reached that developmental phase with their previous troop, and needed to be on their own. They are not ready to be troop leaders yet, but will be in the next five to ten years.

Training 400-Pound Gorillas

The Training Wall allows Zoo guests to view keepers interacting with the gorillas during training sessions. Similar walls are used in both the African lion enclosure and in the Amur leopard exhibit. Additional training takes place behind the scenes in the apes’ holding area. Keepers work with the gorillas on a number of behaviors, including allowing their teeth to be brushed, and for voluntary ultrasounds of their hearts. The latter is critically important as heart disease is the number one cause of deaths among gorillas, especially males.

From the Keepers

“Nzinga is eager during training catches on quickly to new behaviors, but because he is so perceptive, we have to keep an eye on him as he likes to test our boundaries. Bangori is more motivated by spending time with keepers than he is by working through behaviors for extra treats. He does great when things are easy, but when he has to put in some effort, he suddenly becomes distracted by the hair on his arm or picking his nose.” – Cassie M.

Recycle Your Cell Phone!

By recycling your cell phones, iPods, and hand-held games in our ECOCELL drop boxes, you reduce the need for minerals mined in and around gorilla habitat. This helps protect gorillas and their environment, and funds important research.

Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List notes that the Western lowland gorilla is critically endangered, and cites two major drivers of their rapid decline: poaching and the Ebola virus.

Work for Food

Food isn’t simply given to the gorillas: it is often thrown around or hidden in their exhibit, causing the animals to forage, much like they would in the wild. Puzzle feeders with food inside are sometimes hung up in the exhibit, so the gorillas must manipulate the feeders in order to get the food out.