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Gorillas get their day at the Pittsburgh Zoo

| Thursday, Oct. 10, 2002

A group of 11 lowland gorillas at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium helped their own cause Wednesday by helping Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy declare Oct. 17 "Gorilla Day" in Pittsburgh.

The mayor spoke as the personable troupe of babies, mothers, young males and males and the silverback 450-pound patriarch of the clan lumbered and strutted inside their grassy open-air exhibit.

"It's remarkable to watch the juveniles and babies get into elaborate play and chase each other around," Murphy said.

Oct. 17 is the 100th anniversary of the identification of the mountain gorilla in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda in Africa. Rwanda also has declared its own Gorilla Day on that date. Some American zoos also are using Oct. 17 to recognize their own resident gorillas.

Although the zoo's gorillas are lowland gorillas, the zoo is observing Gorilla Day to draw attention to all species of gorilla that are endangered. It is estimated that only about 400 mountain gorillas survive in the wild, said Pittsburgh Zoo president and chief executive officer Barbara Baker. There are none in captivity. The zoo has one of the largest collections of lowland gorillas in the nation. Five gorilla babies were born at the zoo.

Gorillas are threatened by the shrinkage of their forest habitat by drought, but primarily by humans. To raise awareness about their plight, the zoo will host a Gorilla Day celebration Sunday with a daylong series of ape-related events designed to teach parents and their children all about these special apes. Visitors can compare their handprints to a gorilla's, embark on a gorilla facts scavenger hunt, watch a special feeding at 12:30 p.m. and hear gorillas call out to each other. Primate keeper Roseann Giambro will show slides of her visit to Rwanda, where she tracked gorillas in their native habitat.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8; $7, senior citizens; $5 for ages 2 through 13. Free for younger than 2. Parking is $3. Details: (412) 665-3640 or www.pittsburghzoo.com .

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