New Gorilla at Zoo's Gorilla Valley

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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New Gorilla at Zoo's Gorilla Valley

Posted: 06/04/2013
Wanto, a 36-year-old silverback male Western lowland gorilla, had a thorough physical exam including an echo cardiogram to assess his heart health at Knoxville Zoo's Lindsay Young Animal Clinic before moving to his new home in Gorilla Valley.

Veterinarians from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM) conducted the procedure with the assistance of Contract Health Services staff. The initial assessment showed that Wanto's heart was healthy but did have minimal calcification in the arterial wall due to his age along with hypertension, which will monitored and treated with medication.

Heart health data collected from Wanto's exam will be shared with the Great Ape Heart Project, a collaborative initiative among zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The goal of the project is to create a database to track cardiac health information in all great ape species.

Wanto moved to Knoxville from the Kansas City Zoo on the recommendation of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), which manages the breeding and placement of all Western lowland gorilla in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Wanto had been a bachelor for 15 years, and was the SSP's highest priority gorilla for placement with a group of females. Knoxville Zoo was able to welcome Wanto along with two suitable companions, Hope, a 29-year-old female from Disney's Animal Kingdom and Machi, a 36- year-old female from Zoo Atlanta. Hope and Machi have settled into their new home at Gorilla Valley and have been successfully introduced, and gorilla caretakers plan to begin a carefully planned introduction process to unite Wanto, Hope and Machi as a family group over the next few weeks.

Western lowland gorillas are Critically Endangered, with an estimated 30,000-100,000 left in their native habitats of Africa. Their populations are being destroyed due the bushmeat trade, habit destruction and diseases spread by humans.

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 or visit