Surprise gorillas capture hearts in frosty Christchurch

New Zealand’s first community of gorillas woke to frost at their new home at Orana Wildlife Park west of Christchurch this morning.

The first community of gorillas in New Zealand are settling in their new home. Source: 1 NEWS

But after six weeks of “secretly” settling in to their new environment, Fataki, Fuzu and Mahali are getting used to the cold mornings in the south.

Ranging in age from six to 12 years, the gorillas were “quietly” brought into the country in mid-June and have been in quarantine as staff gradually settled them in to their new $6 million enclosure.

The brothers have already captured the hearts of their keepers at Christchurch’s Orana Wildlife Park. Source: 1 NEWS

The gorilla group is all-male at this stage, and forms part of an international zoo-based breeding programme which Orana Park has now joined.

This initial role involves the park supporting Australia-based groups by housing the “bachelors” and raising awareness of the plight of the critically endangered animals.

Orana’s chief executive, Lyn Anderson, told ONE News: “Our team are incredibly excited about having these magnificent animals at Orana."

"Fataki weighs 190kg and is a very impressive animal. He is starting to develop a silver back and will become even more majestic with age.

"The two ‘little’ boys Fuzu and Mahali each weigh around 90kg and are mischievous animals with great characters. Visitors will love them."

She said the park’s original plan was to have the gorilla habitat opened in 2013 but the earthquakes delayed the project development and funding.

In that time the plan was revised and developed into the establishment of a Great Ape Centre capable of holding not only gorillas, but also orangutans, she said.

The official opening for the centre will happen today and the public will get their chance to meet the gorillas from tomorrow.   

Fast facts about Gorillas

- Gorillas are the largest and most powerful of all the primates and are one of the Great Apes (along with orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos).

- Gorillas can live for 50 years in captivity.

- Gorillas are gentle, social animals that live in close family groups. The group is led by a dominant male called a silverback.

- The silverback has grey hair on its back which develops with sexual maturity. The silverback is responsible for leading, protecting and defending the group. Adult males are called blackbacks.

- There are two species of gorilla: the Eastern and the Western Gorillas. The Western Gorillas includes the Western Lowland Gorillas (held at Orana) and the Cross River Gorillas. The Eastern Gorillas includes the Eastern Lowland Gorillas and the Mountain Gorillas.

(source: Orana Wildlife Park)