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The first stop inside the new exhibit is a large glass enclosure where you can see the red river hogs and the gorillas. From behind the safety glass, you see a ravine with muddy banks and “fallen trees” that the gorillas can climb, which double nicely as a canopy for the hogs.
Once you leave this cool building, you enter a series of covered boardwalks where you can continue to view the gorillas new habitat. It is almost easy to forget you are in the middle out Houston when you look out at the lush forest. When we first arrived, the gorillas were not in the habitat and the caretakers were placing snacks out for them. We decided snack time sounded good and utilized the bench in this area of the exhibit to feed our own kids and wait patiently for the gorillas. It was breathtaking to see the gorillas emerge from the forest to the edge of the banks foraging for the cabbage and carrot snacks that were placed out for them. It also provided amazing viewing opportunities of these powerful animals.
The excitement was palpable from everyone in attendance and you can see how this is going to be a popular exhibit at the zoo for many, many years to come.
The next building houses a vast indoor playroom space with a 23 foot tree, balance ropes, and nest hammocks. There were not any gorillas in this space at the time of our visit, but I imagine it will be a popular place in the future as it is intimate and the building is air conditioned. There is also a statue of a gorilla family here that makes for a good photo opportunity and mirrors other beautiful statues found around the zoo. Ultimately, the exhibit connects with the air-conditioned glass viewing area for the chimpanzees. This integration makes the new gorilla exhibit seamless with the existing chimp area.
I know we will be back to visit the gorillas several times and we are looking forward to getting to know this family!
The exhibit opens to the public on May 22nd and admission is included with general Houston Zoo entry.