Cincinnati Zoo Announces Plans for a $12 Million Gorilla Exhibit Expansion

Posted September 8, 2015


gorillaCINCINNATI (September 3, 2015) – The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has big plans to transform the Zoo’s most popular exhibit, Gorilla World, by creating a new indoor habitat to allow for year-round visitor viewing of and engagement with the Zoo’s western lowland gorillas!

“For more than 84 years, the Cincinnati Zoo has led the way in the management of these critically endangered primates. This much-anticipated expansion, specifically the enhancements to the gorillas’ living spaces, will allow us to continue in our role as an advocate for this charismatic flagship species for conservation,” said Ron Evans, Curator of Primates at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The Zoo’s outdoor gorilla exhibit, originally designed as a greenhouse conservatory, opened in 1978 and was one of the earliest large naturalistic primate exhibits in the world.

VIDEO: Thane Maynard outlines expansion plan

Thane Maynard, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo, announced expansion plans earlier this week on the day that the Zoo’s newest baby gorilla, the 50th born at the Zoo, ventured outside for the first time. “Cincinnati Zoo is undertaking a major initiative to improve our care and exhibition of gorillas.  Gorilla World is our most popular exhibit at the zoo.  And adding year round indoor viewing will bring us up to speed to provide world class care for these endangered great apes,” said Maynard.

The new $12 million expansion, slated to be complete as early as 2017, will include a greenhouse structure, which will essentially double the size of the current exhibit and provide multiple gorilla family groups with access to naturalistic settings, natural daylight, and large interactive spaces, promoting healthy interaction among family members.

A less visible but equally important component of the expansion involves reconfiguring and modernizing the off-exhibit holding and living areas for the Zoo’s gorillas. The new configuration will provide the Zoo’s eleven gorillas, divided in two family groups, spatial variety and easy options to move past one another.

“The Zoo’s capital improvements depend primarily on private donations from foundations, individuals and corporations” said Maynard. “I see this community’s passion for gorillas every day. Building an expansive indoor habitat will further enhance the visitor experience, by adding four to five months of gorilla viewing opportunities, and inspire support for the Zoo’s gorilla conservation efforts.”

There are about 765 gorillas in zoos worldwide including approximately 360 in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Program (SSP) for this species. Western lowland gorillas are critically-endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink. The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year. The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts like the Mbeli Bai Study in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. The Mbeli Bai Study is the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas. Through research, local education programs, publications and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival. For more information, visit

See the gorillas in Gorilla World near the Reptile House.