Chances are if you’ve never traveled to Rwanda, you’ve never seen a mountain gorilla in real life.
Mountain gorillas – which are critically endangered, with only around 900 remaining in the wild – are not well suited to human care, so they are not in zoos. to Milwaukee County Zoo.
Although most people will never be able to see the mountain gorillas in real life, visitors to the Milwaukee Zoo can now do the next best thing: see them in virtual life.
Milwaukee is the first zoo in the country to have the Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Experiencea 360 degree live action VR movie with motion platform seats.
“We are delighted to partner with Immotion to bring this groundbreaking virtual reality experience to our visitors,” zoo director Amos Morris said in a press release. “This one-of-a-kind experience is another way for us to inspire guests to care about and get involved in species conservation and to develop empathy for animals.”
The spectators of the film enter a room of 40 people where they put on virtual reality helmets. When the movie starts, people can turn their heads to see everything that’s going on around them. The setting is the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda where primatologist Tara Stoinski from Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund tells about the trip.
Although the video shows the real life of a family of mountain gorillas, there is a story involved, with conflict as the silverback gorilla Zirikana tries to assert himself against the family’s dominant silverback, Charles .
Without spoilers, the story is interesting enough to hold the attention of people of all ages, and the high quality of the video makes you feel like you can reach out and touch the gorillas. In fact, it seems impossible not to reach out and try.
That was the reaction of staff and zookeepers when they got a glimpse of the experience, according to Andrew Stockel, director of business operations at the zoo and head of the Milwaukee experience.
“When I first saw one of the baby gorillas my reaction was to reach out because he was so close, you feel like you can pick up the gorilla,” Stockel said. “And when I watched the reactions of the zookeepers in their helmets, they were all adopting the appropriate professional postures that people are expected to adopt when approaching animals in the wild.”
Before the film there is a pre-show with interactive elements including videos on gorilla behavior and a quiz that matches your personality with one of the gorillas featured or with one of the western lowland gorillas from the zoo.
Diliberti-Shea said zoo staff hope people will come back from the experience with a new understanding of the gorillas’ endangered status and visit the zoo’s western lowland gorilla exhibit to note the similarities. between the two species.
All gorillas in the wild are considered critically endangered. The most common threats to their existence are poaching, hunting, habitat loss and forest degradation.
“Making these connections between the gorillas you see in the experience and the gorillas you see in person, those are so important to our conservation mission,” Diliberti-Shea said. “You never know when the next Jane Goodall or the next Dian Fossey will pass by the zoo and be inspired to help these animals.”
If you are going to
The Gorilla Trek virtual reality experience is set to be at the zoo for several years, in the Otto Borchert Family Special Exhibits building behind Macaque Island.
Admission to the experience is $7 per person ($6 for Zoo Pass members), in addition to regular zoo admission. The experience is best suited for ages 5 and up.
Gorilla Trek is open during zoo hours, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Labor Day, then 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until October 31. Entrance gates close 45 minutes before zoo closing time and animal buildings close at 3 p.m. minutes before the zoo closes.