INSIDE GORILLA FOREST
The adventure begins at the jungle’s edge where an incredibly lifelike bronze sculpture of a gorilla family greets travelers. A gift by Helen and Dan Ulmer, this full-sized, four-figure grouping of a silverback male, female with baby and juvenile gorillas was created by Louisville artist Bill Wieger to give visitors a chance to touch and experience the immense majesty of the largest of the great apes.
You track along a winding wildlife highway created by Pygmy hippos and other large mammals. Watch for signs of recent animal excursions – like hoof prints and knuckle prints that give clues of recent animal activity. The first glimpse of the gorillas comes at an overlook of a “Bai,” a large clearing occurring in dense forest of west and central Africa.
A clear jungle stream runs between banks of exposed clay and over a bed of limestone, creating stair-step cascades between quiet pools. Pygmy hippos are here with special underwater vantage spots so you can watch them at their favorite activities while completely submerged with only their eyes and snouts poking through the still water. Just beyond Western lowland gorillas inhabit forest clearings.
You first see glimpses of these gentle giants in the first gorilla habitat. Panoramic views of both large outdoor regions are followed by an indoor encounter of gorillas-in-the-round, but you are the one in the middle!
Separated only by glass, you come nose to nose with a troop of gorillas in the circular Gorilla Sanctuary. The human area is finished with the same materials as the gorillas’ habitat to create the feeling of wandering into their world. Nearby a stroll on the treetop boardwalk takes you into a modern day Researcher’s Station for a rare opportunity to participate in behavioral observations and international conservation efforts.
This is a trip you will want to take time and time again – for each visit will be an adventure. Gorilla Forest Capital Campaign chairperson Annette Schnatter summed it up best when she said; “This is our legacy for the children -- the children of today and the children to follow.”
(Top statue photo courtesy of the Louisville Zoo, Robert Kemnitz. All other photos by The Courier-Journal, Pam Spaulding)