This week, the Philadelphia Zoo opened the Gorilla Treeway the newest extension of Zoo360, a revolutionary, first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration system. With the opening of Gorilla Treeway, a 300-foot mesh-engineered passageway great apes are taking to the treetops expanding their world and changing the zoo experience from both visitor and animal perspectives. Extending 12 feet above the visitor path from PECO Primate Reserve, Gorilla Treeway is, according to the zoo, “a 5-foot-wide by 6-foot-tall rigid trail structure that will allow the zoo’s gorillas to enjoy long-distance travel, investigate a greater variety of environments and determine their own experiences.”
With about 75 schools, elected officials and zoo members present, Philadelphia Zoo President Vikram H. Dewan joined PECO President and CEO, Craig L. Adams and internationally-renowned photographer and conservationist Gerry Ellis during a ceremonial ribbon cutting of the extension.
As birds chirped and police sirens blared, Ellis noted that these sounds of the city would inform the animals.
“The gorillas are about to experience the world in a kind of way that they have not got to up to this point in time,” said Ellis. “Just a week ago, I was walking through rain forests in Cameroon where these animals come from, but I saw very, very few of them. When I did walk through that forest, it was an incredible experience. It is one where you have walls of green right next to you all the time, and as you walk through that you have to have all your senses going at warp speed.
“When I was walking there, I thought, ‘that is so much like this experience, walking through the Philadelphia Zoo, unlike any zoo in the world because you have a chance to experience the world in 360 all the time. You think about what’s happening today, you take this for granted, but think about the wind that is blowing right now, think about the sound you just heard — the gorillas are going to get to experience that — and that’s what they have in the real world out there in the forest.”
The western lowland gorilla typically found in zoos is not the largest of the gorillas, yet it is a little mind-boggling to see a trio of gorillas up-close. Two females initially entered the Treeway, followed by a silverback male that drew awes from the gathered.
“The opening of Gorilla Treeway marks another major milestone as we continue transform the zoo experience quite literally taking visitors’ engagement wildlife to new heights,” said Dewan. “The zoo experience is evolving and though Philadelphia Zoo is an organization steeped in history, we are on the forefront of this change-defining the zoo of the future.”