Antwerp Zoo offers new home to endangered gorilla


Kiki, a seven-year-old Western lowland gorilla, has moved to Antwerp from Germany, and the zoo is carrying out research on the species’ natural habitat in Cameroon

Step-by-step integration

Antwerp Zoo has welcomed a new Western lowland gorilla, an endangered species that’s native to the low rainforests of Western Africa. The female gorilla, named Kiki, comes from Heidelberg Zoo in Germany.

Kiki was brought to Antwerp because she suffers from epilepsy and needed a quieter environment in which to live. She also had trouble in her group at the Heidelberg Zoo and could rarely get enough to eat. Because Antwerp Zoo has only five lowland gorillas, Kiki (pictured) will get more individual care here than in Germany.

The Western lowland gorilla is on the UN’s Red List of endangered species. Its natural habitat in Central and Western Africa, mainly lowland rainforests, is shrinking due to forestry, mining and farming. In 1987, Unesco declared a large part of the habitat, the Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon, to be World Heritage.

The reserve is also where Antwerp Zoo runs its Dja Conservation Project, with Planckendael animal park and two zoos from the UK. The project aims to inform local communities in and around the Dja reserve about nature conservation and to offer them alternative ways of making a living other than killing gorillas for meat. Bee-keeping and cacao farming are two examples.

“We work mainly in the non-protected periphery of the reserve,” says Zjef Pereboom of Antwerp Zoo. “These ‘buffer zones’ between the reserve and the civilised world give us the opportunity to investigate the effect of human activities; like hunting, farming and forestry, on endangered species. In that sense, we are unique, as most research projects focus on endangered animals that live inside reserves.”

So what’s the effect of the project? “At the moment, we have clear indications that there’s more wildlife in our research area than in areas where we are not present,” says Pereboom, “even inside the Dja reserve. And this goes for many endangered species, not only gorillas.”

In the meantime, the zoo’s newest acquisition is being integrated step by step into her new group. The seven-year-old is a little behind in her development – weighing only 40 kilograms instead of the normal 53. To facilitate her integration, two caretakers from Germany have assisted Kiki during her first days in Antwerp. The zoo hopes she will be ready to be introduced to the public in the coming days.

Photo by Jonas Verhulst/Zoo Antwerpen

Kiki, a seven-year-old Western lowland gorilla, has moved to Antwerp from Germany, and the zoo is carrying out research on the species’ natural habitat in Cameroon.

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Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest and best-conserved zoos in the world. The zoo buildings and gardens are registered as protected Flemish heritage.
Kai-Mook - In 2009, Kai-Mook, the first baby elephant born on Belgian soil, dominated national and international headlines for weeks.
Founding - The Zoo was established by former Antwerp mayor Jans Frans Loos. After visiting Amsterdam’s zoo, he decided it was time for Antwerp to get its own.
Short - In colloquial Flemish speech, Antwerp Zoo has long gone by the simple name “De Zoo”.
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