Sneak Peak at Gorillas – We Just Launched A New Gorilla Microsite

Web surfers are getting a first look inside the new gorilla habitat at the Houston Zoo with a just-launched microsite on the zoo’s homepage,  The site opens with a countdown clock marking time until the official grand opening on Memorial Day Weekend and then leads visitors on an area-by-area tour of the exhibit, and an introduction to the seven western lowland gorillas. The site is designed to give guests a sense of what’s to come.

Powerful gorilla eyes welcome visitors to the vibrant microsite, imaginatively designed by the Zoo’s in-house graphics team and web developers from New Orleans-based Apptitude. Created to introduce Houstonians to the mystery and wonder of the powerful apes, the website takes visitors on a journey from western Africa to the Houston Zoo.

On the site, visitors can also get a pictorial walk-through of the intricately designed space. From the outdoor habitat filled with lush landscape that mimics an African forest to a multi-tiered night house that includes private bedrooms, an artistic 23-foot-tall climbing tree, and a private event space. Guests can even learn about the seven western lowland gorillas who call the new space home.

Additionally, visitors will have the opportunity to sign up for email notifications, become zoo members and learn about the partnerships the zoo has in Africa with gorilla conservation organizations. Zoo members will have the chance to get one of the first looks at the gorillas in their new habitat during private preview days in May.

Houston Zoo Prepares to Welcome New Gorillas

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

Seven western lowland gorillas will soon arrive in Houston in preparation for the grand opening of the new gorilla habitat at the Houston Zoo, opening Memorial Day weekend.  The intricately designed space will hold two groups of western lowland gorillas who will spend their days alternating between an outdoor habitat filled with lush landscape that mimics an African forestand a multi-tiered night house that includes private bedrooms, an artistic 23-foot-tall climbing tree, and a behind-the-scenes outdoor yard.

These magnificent animal ambassadors offer the opportunity to increase awareness and inspire conservation action to protect their wild counterparts. The Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts for these species will also be communicated through interpretive messages and interactive experiences that reinforce compelling education programs.

Once open to the public, guests will be able to see the gorillas through many different areas of the habitat. From an arrival building with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the dry river bed, to an open boardwalk alongside the gorilla’s naturalistic forest, guests will also see the gorillas inside their state-of-the-art night house.

Photo Credit: Richard Rokes

The first to arrive in the Bayou City will be a troop of male gorillas from Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC. Chaka (30), Mike (23) and Ajari (14) are scheduled to arrive this week. Chaka and Mike lived at the Riverbanks Zoo since July 2004 when the pair arrived from Philadelphia Zoo in Pennsylvania. Ajari joined them in January 2013 from Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee. Mike, one of the three gorillas making the move, has a cardiac condition that will require attention throughout his trip and upon arrival. The Houston Zoo and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden have worked closely to create a travel and health monitoring plan to ensure all three gorillas will arrive safely in Houston.  The group is also working closely with the Great Ape Heart Project based at Zoo Atlanta to develop a long-term medical plan which may include medication and possibly an implanted monitoring device.

The bachelor trio will alternate spaces at the Houston Zoo with a family troop of three gorillas who will arrive in March from Louisville, KY and a single female who will join the family troop from Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

Zuri (31), Holli (25) and their daughter Sufi (13) are arriving in Houston from the Bronx Zoo after a nine month stay at the Louisville Zoo. Binti (40) from Audubon Zoo has been chosen to join the family troop as a part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperation between Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) accredited zoos and aquariums to properly manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population.

The endangered western lowland gorilla faces many threats.  Their native habitat in central and west Africa is shrinking largely due to the expansion of mining and agriculture in the area. The already dwindling population faces the added threat from hunting. As one of man’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom, their highly social nature and intelligence make them prime ambassadors to educate our community about the threats faced by all gorillas and the conservation work currently undertaken by the Houston Zoo. Staff works in tandem with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) to improve the health of remaining gorilla populations through improved human health for veterinarians and conservation workers as well as rural communities. Active health programs and education are fostering a better understanding of an appreciation for the natural world for those living near these endangered apes. The zoo staff also works with the Conservation Heritage-Turambe project and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation (GRACE) Center.

Monkey Business… aka "Love"

By Marjorie Pepin

It’s February, and love is in the air at the Houston Zoo. But can love withstand the test of time? That question not only applies to humans, but to animals, too!

One of the beautiful De Brazza babies.
One of the beautiful De Brazza babies.

A few of our monkey couples have managed to last longer than most human marriages, and that’s a big deal!  We have some primates in our collection who, through thick and thin, have been together for seemingly forever. Holding the record for being our longest lasting couple are a pair of Colobus monkeys named Caesar and Bibi. Together for twenty one years, this old couple has been through it all. Each of them has battled multiple illnesses and age (Caesar is the oldest colobus monkey in captivity at the ripe old age of 32) with their companion right by their side. Despite their old ages, they will still slap fight each other on occasion, but most often they are seen hugging and wrestling on the comfortable blankets placed for them to rest on. Other monkeys who have been long-time mates include a pair of De Brazza’s guenons who have been together for nine years and have produced two offspring. We also have a pair of lemurs, a Red-fronted lemur and a Crowned lemur who have been companions for six years.

Zenobia watches over her baby.

For some it’s instant attraction, but others take time to build their relationships. In some cases they can also lose interest in their partner after a period of time.  Just ask Zenobia. She’s our female Coquerel’s sifaka who was introduced to a male named Dean a few years back. Sifakas are a type of lemur found on the island of Madagascar.  These two got along really well for a few years and raised two boys together. After their second infant was a year old, Zenobia started snapping at Dean, and their continued tension led us to separate the pair. Even though we made efforts to reintroduce them, it seemed there was no way to rekindle the lost bond.

Shortly after, Zenobia took new arrival Gaius as her mate. After three years and two babies together, Zenobia and Gaius have found comfort and balance with each other. It also helps that Gaius respects Zenobia as the “boss” (females are dominant over males in the lemur species). It just goes to show you that even in the animal kingdom, it takes a little trial and error before you find “The One”.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

We will be welcoming a new family to our Zoo very soon. A family of gorillas which consists of Zuri, Holli and their daughter Sufi. Zuri and Holli have been together for sixteen years, and Zuri has always preferred Holli over any other females that were in their group over the years. Their daughter, Sufi, was born in 2001.  They will be the newest addition to our groups of long lasting primate relationships.

So this Valentine’s Day, the monkey business we call love continues to flourish here at the Houston Zoo.

Street Art & Conservation Collide

Conservationists are everywhere! Just like Houston based, self-taught artist Anat Ronen. Ronen uses recycled or “off-tint” paint when painting her enormous murals, including the gorilla-inspired mural she’s painting this week at Richard’s Antiques on 3701 Main St.

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

Not only is recycled paint cheaper than purchasing virgin, brand-name paint, but buying recycled paint saves on disposal – in most cases, leftover or unused paint can still be used and causes unnecessary landfill waste when tossing in the trash. By purchasing or recycling unwanted paint, consumers can help save the environment. You should also donate your left-over water-based latex paint to your local civic or community group, or take your oil-based paint to the appropriate facilities like the City of Houston’s Westpark Consumer Recycling Center.

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

Anat Ronen is one of five of Houston’s most talented street artists participating in covering local walls with murals inspired by the new gorillas coming to the Houston Zoo. The seven western lowland gorillas will inhabit an all-new, state-of-the-art exhibit which will open Memorial Day weekend.

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

We encourage art lovers and animal enthusiasts to visit one of these sites! Click here to learn more about each artist.

Artists and mural locations;

Mr. D

Artist at Large Industries, 2119 Washington Ave.  

Anat Ronen

Richard’s Antiques, 3701 Main St  


Downtown Food Park, 1311 Leeland (corner of Leeland & Austin Streets)

Michael C. Rodriguez

Jenni’s Noodle House – The Heights, 602 East 20th Street

Nicky Davis

3100 Smith St.


Artists Paint Massive Gorilla Murals Around Houston

Here at the Houston Zoo, we can hardly wait for our grand opening of our new Gorillas at the Houston Zoo habitat in May. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until May to see gorillas…

We’ve teamed up with five insanely talented artists who have each designed a mural featuring gorillas. Each one pours personality and style into their work , and we are thrilled that this group is helping the entire city welcome gorillas to Houston.

Here’s a look at the artists that are bringing you their best guerrilla gorilla designs.



Mural Location: Downtown Food Park; 1311 Leeland (corner of Leeland & Austin Streets

Texas-based artist, Mario Enrique Figueroa, Jr. aka GONZO247 was exposed to graffiti and began his pursuit as a self-taught aerosol artist in 1985.  Some of his accomplishments include: Founder of Graffiti and Street Art Organization, Aerosol Warfare; producing Aerosol Warfare, a graffiti video series;  Mural “Houston Is…” with The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, selected Houston Press Best Public Art Project and won a Silver Addy Award; Education HANS 200: The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall guest instructor at Rice University Hanszen College. His artwork can also be found in the City of Houston Art Collection at The Houston Permitting Building; Interviewed for the Center for Arts Leadership Archives at University of Houston, 2013; Collaboration for the Houston Rap Book, Slipcase Cover Artwork; Mentioned in The History of American Graffiti, Texas Chapter ); Also named Houston Press Best Art Curator in a Non-Museum Setting Award 2012.  For more information visit

Photo credit: Dave Rossman/For the Houston Chronicle


Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau

Mural Location: 2119 Washington Ave.

Born in 1973 in Versailles, France, Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau was influenced by the American Pop Art and Graffiti movement of the 60s, 70s, and 80s and began his artistic endeavors in Paris in 1987 at the age of 14. In the early-90s he began to travel the world painting in remote countries like Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Senegal, and many western destinations.

Perservons La CreationHe migrated to the United States in 1998 and in 2000 launched what is now a highly successful mural company in Houston, Texas, Eyeful Art Murals and Designs, serving both the public and private sectors.

Mr. D’s signature style is known as “Canpressionism“ a neo-impressionist style primarily done with spray paint and street art techniques.

“After 28 years as an artist, the stigma remains, and I want to change people’s perception in regards to Urban Art. My artistic and personal goal is to use my skills, experience, and credibility to demonstrate an “Urban Art as Fine Art” approach through ‘Canpressionism’.” For more information visit

Photo credit: AMA by Aisha

nicky-davisNicky Davis

Mural Location: 3100 Smith St.

Nicky Davis is an artist that works and resides in the suburban sprawl of Houston, Texas. His illustrative style and color choices occasionally hint at a cautious optimism, the absurdities of life and love and the damage done by man’s ecological irresponsibility. Amongst the Polar Bears and grinning vampires are subtle suggestions that all is most definitely not well.

Nicky Davis’ style roots itself in the low brow / low brim New Contemporary Art Movement with a fun mix of color, character, and imagination. He received his Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Houston. For more information visit


Michael C. Rodriguez

Mural Location: Jenni’s Noodle House; 602 East 20th St.

Michael C. Rodriguez is an Illustrator and Graphic Designer based in Houston, Texas.

Heavily inspired by vintage illustration styles and nature, Rodriguez combines these elements into a modern context to create both personal narratives and storytelling.

Michael’s artwork has been exhibited nationwide and his illustration work has appeared in a number of US and International publications such as Wired, Spin, and Juxtapoz. For more information visit


Anat Ronen

Mural Location: Richard’s Antiques; 3701 Main St

Anat is a self-taught artist, focusing on murals and street painting. Her professional artistic phase started in 2009, almost by mistake. She paints with brushes, using latex (house paint), and acrylics. So far she painted more than 400 murals, mostly throughout the vast Houston area, including public spaces like interstate highways, bridges, buildings, churches, schools, and more.

In addition to her mural work, she participates in international street painting and street art festivals nationwide and around the world. Since discovering her gift, Anat has made use of it to pay her bills, and also to deliver messages. Her dream is to keep on doing it. For more information visit

Photo credit: Collin Kelly


The Action For Apes Challenge Has Begun!

Do you want to win a painting done by the gorillas (arriving soon!), chimpanzees and mandrills at the Houston Zoo and  help save these species in the wild?

If you answered yes, then the Action for Apes Challenge is for you!

The Action for Apes Challenge is a competition between Houston area schools, organizations, and businesses to see who can recycle the most cell phones. The group that recycles the most cell phones before April 30, 2015 wins a painting done by the gorillas(after they arrive, of course!), chimpanzees and mandrills at the Houston Zoo!
Chimpanzee painting

Want more information? See the neatly organized questions below!

Who can participate? Anyone who wants to save animals in the wild. Anyone who wants to win. Anyone who wants artwork painted by apes. Anyone with old cell phones and other electronics like GPS equipment, cameras and MP3 players.

How do I participate? First register online at Then, start collecting cell phones! A box will be sent to you that you can use for the cell phones you collect, or you can decorate your own box. In order for your cell phones to be counted, they must be postmarked on or before April 30, 2015. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay shipping; a mailing label will be sent to you.

Is anything other than cell phones accepted? Yes! This year we will accept cell phones, smart phones, MP3 players, iPads and other tablets, handheld gaming devices, GPS, wifi hot spots, and digital cameras. All of these will be counted in your total! We also accept electronic accessories such as chargers, blue tooth headsets, earbuds, etc., however these items will not be counted in your total. But you should still send them so they can be recycled instead of ending up in a landfill!

How will I find out if I win? We will announce the winner via email to all participants in mid-May. The winner will also be recognized on Facebook, Twitter, and the Action for Apes webpage.

How does recycling old cell phones help save animals in the wild? Materials found in cell phones and other handheld electronic devices are mined in areas such as the African Congo, which happens to be where animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, and okapis live. When the materials are taken from animal habitats to be used in electronics, the homes of chimps, gorillas, and okapis become disrupted and these animal populations decrease. If you recycle your old cell phone and other electronics, then the materials can be reused instead of getting new minerals from the ground and further endangering these animals.

Want to get started? Just visit our Action for Apes website and fill out the registration form!

Questions? Contact

Dickinson High School Takes Home 1st Place in 2014 Action for Apes Challenge!

10365925_708674479195725_7798650179364826206_nWe have just concluded our 2014 Action for Apes Cell Phone Recycling Challenge and it was incredibly successful with 49 local Houston schools and organizations participating! Over 25,000 participants were involved in this challenge-recycling cell phones as quickly as they could by APE-ril 30th, 2014 to join the Houston Zoo’s efforts to save gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild! A material found in almost every cell phone (tantalum) is taken from the ground in Central Africa where these amazing apes live, and by recycling phones we can reuse these materials and reduce the need to mine in animal habitats to get more tantalum.

At the end of APE-ril, the participants began shipping their recycled phones to Eco-Cell who counted every single phone from the challenge and reported the totals to the Houston Zoo. We are very excited to announce that Dickinson High School  won 1st place in the challenge, recycling a total of 384 phones! Dickinson High School will win a huge painting to be hung in their school, specially painted by the Houston Zoo’s chimpanzee troop in the colors of their choosing.

action for apes

Coming in at 2nd place was Birkes Elementary, recycling 242 phones, and 3rd place went to Parkwood Elementary School, who recycled 155 phones. Overall, all participating groups brought in a total of 2,032 cell phones which means 2,032 actions to save animals in the wild!

We are so thankful for the collaborative effort of our community in recycling cell phones to save gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild, and we could not do this important work without the Houston community. Thank you to everyone who participated and we’re already looking forward to 2015!

Great Apes Aren't Doing So Great

Simple fact: Great Apes are in trouble. The next few years could determine the fate of some of the smaller populations of apes such as orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas spread across their range countries. Gorillas are of particular concern these days as they are being lost for human reasons – lost to habitat fragmentation, disease issues, hunted for meat and young taken to sell into the wildlife trade. And while some populations are stabilizing, the Eastern Lowland Gorillas of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to decline:

Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) contains between 125,000 and 200,000 individuals remaining in the wild in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea.

Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) only 250-300 individuals remain in Nigeria and Cameroon

Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) may be as low as 5,000 individuals, down from 17,000 in 1995. This population is difficult to monitor due to political instability in their range countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) less than 900 individuals remaining in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo

Gorillas Sitting

The Houston Zoo currently partners with two amazing programs in Central Africa you have seen on our websites and social media. The Gorilla Doctors work in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are literally Doctors who make house calls – for gorillas. With a focus on keeping the worlds remaining Mountain Gorillas healthy across three countries and assisting with confiscating and caring for orphaned Eastern Lowland gorillas when called upon, the Gorilla Doctors are at the front line of protecting these species. You can find out more about what they do at A little further north in the DRC sits a unique sanctuary for orphaned Eastern Lowland gorillas called GRACE – Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education center. A one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to recusing, caring for, and one day releasing these individuals back in the wild. More on this project can be found at

gorilla babyyWorking in regions where poverty is high is complicated and each program offers the development of initiatives to help support local communities; from health to education and even some jobs. Today, protecting wildlife could not be successful without programs which empower these communities to participate in a future for gorillas.

Africa has a mystique. It is awe-inspiring, a living place yet dark and formidable. It is full of cultures and heritage, wildlife and wild places. But, Deepest Darkest Africa is in danger. There is a Congolese proverb which says you do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. But what if those paths are gone forever? How will the gorilla find its way? And worse, what if the old gorillas have gone away, lost to humans? Who will show the young the paths of the forest?

200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote for if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal. If we have the opportunity to protect and hold dear this chain; wildlife, habitat and human communities, then we must take that opportunity and act while the old gorilla can still teach the young, his forest path.


The Brightly Colored Red River Hogs

You may have heard that the Houston Zoo will be welcoming gorillas to our zoo again, but they won’t be the only animals you see there! We are very excited that gorillas will be sharing their exhibit with red river hogs.
red river hog

Why will they be living with the gorillas? Well, the red river hog is actually a type of wild pig that roams the forests and swamps of central and western Africa. This means that the red river hogs and gorillas share the same habitat and would occasionally encounter each other in the wild. Unlike the gorillas though, red river hogs are not listed as endangered. They are actually doing very well population-wise in the wild due to the human-caused reduction of the population of the leopard (the hogs’ natural predator).

These wild hogs got their name because they are easy to spot due to their very bright coloration. What might stand out more are the long tufts of fur on their ears giving them a unique elf-like appearance. While on your path through the African Forest watching the gorillas, be sure to stop and look for these interesting red river hogs. You will see that this is a very unique species and one we are very excited to welcome to our zoo!

Gorillas in the Wild

It’s starting to get pretty exciting around the Zoo these days. The gorilla exhibit is progressing and soon we’ll be thinking about transporting our gorillas here to their new home. Part of the anticipation of having gorillas here in Houston is the ability to connect our Zoo members and guests with gorillas in the wild and share their natural history and current conservation status.

While most people are familiar with mountain gorillas of “gorillas in the Mist” fame, there are actually four distinct populations of gorillas. In the east are the famous mountain gorillas and the Grauer’s gorillas while in the west are western lowland gorillas and Cross River gorillas. All gorilla species are endangered due to human-wildlife conflict. Gorillas live in areas rich in resources like gold and other minerals, diamonds, timber and oil. Learn how you can be a wildlife hero by recycling your cell phone.

gorilla map

The two kinds of gorillas you are likely to hear about at the Houston Zoo are the Grauer’s gorillas and western lowland gorillas. You will hear about Grauer’s gorillas because the Houston Zoo supports the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education center, GRACE, the only facility that handles confiscated Grauer’s gorilla orphans, while western lowland gorillas are what our guests will see in the new exhibit.


Grauer’s gorillas inhabit the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Although their range overlaps with mountain gorillas, Grauer’s gorillas live at lower elevations and their hair is not as dense as that of mountain gorillas. They are also the largest species of gorilla. Because of the unrest that has unfortunately plagued this region of Africa, Grauer’s gorillas are losing their habitat faster than any other species of gorilla. The good news is that if you look at mountain gorillas as an example, concerted conservation efforts do work and can save animals in the wild! Since people have been studying, patrolling and protecting the Virunga Mountains, mountain gorilla populations have gone up. The great news for Grauer’s gorillas is that the people and communities in the DRC care deeply for their natural heritage and are working with projects like GRACE to protect the Grauer’s gorillas.

gorilla silver

Western lowland gorillas are the only species of gorilla held in American zoos. They can be distinguished from other species by the reddish hair on top of their heads. Western lowland gorillas have slightly higher population numbers than the other gorillas, but this does not mean they do not need conservation efforts. One of the first things needed in determining an appropriate conservation plan is understanding the biology and behavior of a particular animal. Gorillas inhabit dense forests and have very shy natures. These factors present significant challenges for researchers. One of the unique things about western lowland gorillas that help scientists to be able to study them is that they frequent what are called bais. A bai (pronounced bye) is a marshy clearing in the forest where plants that are rich in protein and minerals grow readily. Gorillas are vegetarians so bais provide prime feeding habitat for gorilla groups. Bais also give researchers an unobstructed view and therefore the ability to observe gorilla behavior and social structure that is not always possible in the forest.

gorilla washing

There so many more cool things about gorillas, way more than we can possibly talk about here! We encourage you to look up more information and learn as much as you can about how you can help save animals in the wild as we all look forward to having gorillas here at the Houston Zoo!

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