New Gorilla Making Himself at Home at Knoxville Zoo

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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New Gorilla Making Himself at Home at Knoxville Zoo

Posted: 06/29/2010
Knoxville Zoo has welcomed a new Western lowland gorilla to its Gorilla Valley exhibit. Ajari, a 10-year-old male from San Diego Wild Animal Park, is making his first appearances in the exhibit's courtyard as he acclimates himself to his new surroundings. His arrival is part of a well-orchestrated plan to introduce Ajari to Bantu, the zoo's resident 12-year-old male gorilla.

Zoo staff anticipates Ajari and Bantu will be good companions for each other since they are both juvenile males. In the wild, adolescent males will leave their natal groups and either join a bachelor group or strike out on their own for a few years until they are mature enough to assume the role of alpha male in a group of female gorillas, known as a harem. The decision to bring Ajari to Knoxville was a social management recommendation of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Western lowland gorillas, which manages the placement of gorillas in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

A lanky 285 pound blackback gorilla, Ajari is actively exploring his new dens and the exhibit courtyard. As he becomes familiar with his new routine and surroundings, he will be given access to the zoo's one acre Gorilla Valley exhibit. Zoo staff has begun the first stages of the introduction process between Ajari and Bantu; the two gorillas have limited visual and physical contact through glass windows and mesh dividers. As they become better acquainted, they will begin sharing the same exhibit space.

Two long-term residents of Gorilla Valley, Ernie and Kwashi, departed Knoxville Zoo as part of breeding recommendations by the Gorilla SSP. Ernie is settling into his new home in the Bronx Zoo and Kwashi is getting comfortable at the Cincinnati Zoo, where each will be introduced to their own harems and hopefully become part of successful breeding programs.

Knoxville Zoo is Knoxville's largest year-round attraction. Located off exit 392A from Interstate 40, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Day. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. Currently, the zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. Next-day admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call 865-637-5331 ext. 300 or visit