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Zoo Visitors Can Now "Meet" Oliver

Media Alert: Friday, May 14, 2010


May 14, 2010

Patty Peters                                                         
Associate Zoo Director Community Relations

Powell, OH – Oliver T. Barney, a 21-year-old male lowland gorilla, who arrived at the Columbus Zoo last fall can now be seen in the Zoo’s indoor gorilla habitat where he is one step closer to being introduced to his new gorilla family.         

            Oliver is deaf and was living alone at Gorilla Haven in Georgia before coming to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.  Following standard protocol Oliver spent time in quarantine and became acquainted with the Zoo’s animal care staff before his introduction to the other Columbus Zoo gorillas began.  He has been surrounded by other gorillas where he can see and interact with them in adjacent habitats.  Gorillas are very intelligent and need stimulation and the Columbus Zoo’s habitat design is complex by nature.

            “Oliver is very smart and quickly learned our routine” stated Head Keeper Audra Meinelt.  “He understands what is being asked of him and we in turn have learned much about his behavior and preferences.  We are working together as a team to successfully integrate Oliver into a social group.”

            Oliver was born at the Bronx Zoo on October 7, 1988 to Tunuka and Barney who were both born in the wild.  No one knows what caused Oliver’s deafness, there is no reason to believe it is genetic, and it has been determined he is not a candidate for a cochlear implant. 

            The gorilla program at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is internationally recognized for caring for gorillas in social groups including the placement of young gorillas with surrogate mothers to become integral members of a family group. There are about 850 gorillas in zoos worldwide including 359 in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan.  There are currently 15 gorillas at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

            Habitat loss and deforestation have historically been the primary cause for declining populations of Africa’s great apes, but experts now agree that the illegal commercial bushmeat trade has surpassed habitat loss as the primary threat to ape populations.  The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium supports numerous conservation projects including the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance and the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration.  In 1991 the Columbus Zoo founded Partners in Conservation to conduct conservation and humanitarian programs benefiting both wildlife and people in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.)  Over the past five years the Columbus Zoo and Partners in Conservation has distributed more than $3.8 million in conservation grants worldwide.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. after Labor Day.  General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+.  Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free.  The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.)  For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit  

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