Kansas City Zoo Goes Ape

New additions include an orangutan canopy and a baby gorilla.

By Georgia Thompson

The Kansas City Zoo has been full of activity lately—from opening a 3,400-square-foot contemporary habitat for three orangutans on May 22 to welcoming a baby Western Lowland Gorilla on Memorial Day.

The Orangutan Canopy, which is outfitted with a cam so Zoo lovers can log on and observe the apes, allows visitors to closely observe three of the six orangutans in an environment aimed to be as naturalistic as possible. The canopy also includes an Orangutan Agility Course that engages guests by testing their abilities swinging, sliding, mimicking the apes’ movement.

Photo via Facebook.

An indoor area houses the remaining orangutan trio in a modern facility dubbed Orangutan University. Here, a number of tests and activities meant to challenge the apes’ physical and mental capabilities are included in the exhibit.

Zoo Executive Director and CEO Randy Wisthoff oversaw the construction of the display. “It’s exciting to have created a more realistic and engaging home for the Zoo’s orangutans than was previously in place,” he says.

While the former orangutan habitat, according to Wisthoff, was an adequate condo unit, he believed the animals needed an environment that provided the opportunity to swing freely from tree to tree, which is a central aspect present within the new Orangutan Canopy exhibit. “I’m pleased with and excited about this project, which is just as special the animals that are being showcased within it,” he says.

And on Monday, May 25, Makari, a Western Lowland Gorilla, gave birth to a bouncing baby gorilla. The momentous occasion marked the first gorilla birth at the Zoo since 1975.

Makari with her new baby

“This is a proud announcement for the Kansas City Zoo and a very proud moment for Makari—she is practically glowing,” Wisthoff says.  “Gorilla moms are amazing caregivers. She got the baby nursing right away. Gorillas are some of the most powerful and striking animals, not only for their size and force, but also for their gentle human-like behavior.”

This is the third offspring for 27-year-old Mom, Makari. She is also the mother of Jalani and Azizi, both of which reside at other AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited zoos as part of the Gorilla SSP (Species Survival Plan). The father is a 31-year-old silverback Radi. The Kansas City Zoo is home to a breeding group of one male and three female Western Lowland Gorillas.

Mom and baby, eager and ready to explore, made their debut amongst the grasses and trees of the lush gorilla yard in the Zoo’s Africa section on June 1.

To watch the KC Zoo’s orangutan family at play, check out the Orang Cam at