An After-Christmas Surprise for Denny the Gorilla

Denny Celebrates his Birthday with a Jungle-themed Party

 Denny, a western lowland gorilla at the San Diego Zoo, celebrated his third birthday today (December 26, 2017), with a spectacular after-Christmas jungle-themed party. The four members of his gorilla troop entered their habitat, which was packed with present bags and gourds filled with popcorn, smeared peanut butter and other treats, green and brown decorations, including a banner and paper-mâché insects and birds, a three-layered ice cake, and a birthday “tree” filled with presents and other surprises.

The “birthday boy” went directly to the front of the habitat and began eating the fruit stuck to the glass. He then explored the space, collecting popcorn, while his family enjoyed the cake, peanut butter, and other delights. The birthday party elements provide the gorillas the opportunity to thrive by allowing them a chance to enjoy an activity together as a troop. Animal care staff said it’s fun to offer these particular moments to the gorillas, especially young Denny.

“Denny is starting to be more adventurous,” said Jill Andrews, animal care manager for primates at the San Diego Zoo. “He’s now spending more time away from mom, and he’s always fun to watch as he exhibits more of his curious personality.”

Denny was named in honor of businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who funded the creation and development of San Diego Zoo Kids television channel. San Diego Zoo Kids’ programming is made primarily for medical facilities that serve pediatric patients and their families—offering up-close animal-oriented stories that are both entertaining and educational. Debuted in 2013 at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, the unique channel can now be viewed in more than 120 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses over 30 states across the U.S., and in facilities in Mexico, Canada, Australia and Pakistan.

Gorillas are listed as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Threats to the species include people hunting gorillas for food, called bushmeat, and loss of habitat due to logging and mining. The past 15 years have seen a dramatic decline in gorilla numbers, with almost half of the entire eastern gorilla species population believed to have been wiped out. San Diego Zoo Global has partnered with multiple organizations and local conservationists in Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon to shed light on gorilla genetic variations across regions, and to promote community-led conservation initiatives.

Guests can visit Denny, and the other four members of his troop in the Zoo’s Lost Forest habitat.