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Enter the gorilla world; San Diego Zoo has an all-new African rain forest for its six gorillas.

Before you spot the gorillas in their new digs at the San Diego Zoo, you'll experience their habitat. Upon entering Gorilla Tropics, you'll smell the sweet scent of African wildflowers, feel the misting of a dense rain forest, and hear the chatter of the trumpeter hornbills and capuchin babblers.

In its 75th anniversary year, the zoo has unveiled an African rain-forest habitat for its six gorillas, a completely renovated Scripps Aviary, and three adjacent aviaries. It's all part of an ambitious 20-year program, begun in 1986, to rebuild the entire zoo into 10 bioclimate zones. Gorilla Tropics, which opened last March and cost $11.5 million, shows how far the zoo has come since acquiring its first pair of gorillas 60 years ago. The new exhibit gives the animals five times the space of their old enclosure and simulates an African rain forest, right down to the recorded rumbles of their natural habitat (a jungle chorus that comes from 144 speakers hidden throughout the 2 1/2 acres).

Trekking down the path lined with African figs and sausage trees, keep an eye out for Memba, the group's leader, and Alvila, a female born at the zoo in 1965. A moat and glass panels separate them from visitors.

Perhaps Kimba-Kumba, a four-year-old, will stand upright, thumping her chest. Or Jessica, a 10-year-old, will scramble across the rocks overlooking the compound's pools and waterfalls as she chases the babies, Kubatiza and Penny. And since the gorillas are in natural surroundings, don't be surprised to see any of them eating their environment, whether it's the African grasses or the leaves from the banana trees.

Scripps Aviary has also been completely replanted and renovated. New elevated walkways bring you eye-to-eye with African jacanas and the rare waldrapp ibis from Morocco. If you hear thunder, prepare for showers-that's the signal that misting pipes running across the sky blue roof are about to dampen the winged inhabitants perched atop the palm and coral trees. Three adjacent aviaries house collections of hornbills, as well as fruit- and insect-eating soft-billed birds. Located in San Diego's Balboa Park, the zoo is open 9 to 5 daily from June 16 through Labor Day, 9 to 4 the rest of the year. Admission is $10.75 adults, $4 ages 3 through 15. For more information, call (619) 234-3153.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1991
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