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Update on Zoo Gorillas Maji and Hodari

December 2020

Gorilla Maji Maji
Maji checks out the renovated Gorilla habitat.

If you’ve visited recently, you may have noticed some changes to the indoor Gorilla habitat in Apes of Africa.

Renovations to the habitat were made to adhere to the current recommendations from the Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP) and involved a redesign of the walls from a height of 12 feet to 15 feet.

When the habitat was initially built in 1992, the SSP and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommended a 12-foot containment wall. Years later, when zookeepers, zoologists and experts in the field compiled their current information on animal care, they decided zoos should consider raising the height to 15 feet ensuring no gorilla, in any zoo, could climb over a wall.

Construction for the extension of the interior walls began in April 2020, and the Zoo worked closely with the Gorilla SSP to meet all recommendations. Curator of Primates, Trish Khan, decided to change some of the flooring for the gorillas as well. This turned into a more involved undertaking as a large planter pocket was dismantled in order to give the animals about 900 square-feet of more usable living space. The work continued for several months, with staff digging up the area, rerouting the barrier wires and then filling-in the ground with bark chips. Deep mulch bio-floors have been used successfully with great apes around the world and Khan was excited to try it here. The mulch provides a soft surface for the gorillas and has the added benefit of inhibiting bacterial growth.

Gorilla Maji MajiIn recent weeks, Maji has been spending time in the habitat and getting acclimated to his new home. In the future, Hodari, will be joining Maji in the habitat, as keepers work with him to overcome his nervousness around visitors.

Silverback Maji is 29 years old and arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 1994 from the Cincinnati Zoo. He’s the half brother of Hodari, as they have the same mother. Hodari is 26 years old, also arriving from the Cincinnati Zoo. He has been at MCZ since 1997. The main goal of animal care staff is to make sure both gorillas are comfortable and safe in their new surroundings.

Khan continues to work with the Gorilla SSP to bring in a new family of gorillas in the future.