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Bristol Zoo research uncovers the bare facts of gorilla life - 01/04/11

Keepers and gardeners at Bristol Zoo Gardens have stripped off as part of ground-breaking research into gorilla sensory sensitivity.

Update - You've probably guessed it, but this is our Aprils fool joke for 2011. Click here for more information

It is well known that gorillas have a good sense of smell and are able to detect strong odours in their environment such as human sweat or the musk of an unknowngorilla. However, now an ambitious experiment is being carried out by Bristol Zoo’s Head of Research to find out whether the scent of humans in a gorilla’s environment can be picked up even after the humans have gone.

Research is carried out at Bristol Zoo while staff get to workAs such, staff at the Zoo have stripped off to perform their routine tasks on Gorilla Island, such as tending to the plants and putting out the gorillas’ breakfast, as part of the experiment.

Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research, explains: “Tending to the plants and flowers within the many animal enclosures at the Zoo is an important and necessary job for our team of gardeners. Now we are keen to get to the bare facts of whether their presence leaves a significant scent mark within the enclosure which can be picked up by animals.”

He added: “We are monitoring the gorillas’ behaviour following gardeners carrying out work on Gorilla Island – once fully clothed, as a control group, and again without clothes, to see if there is a significant difference.

“Conducting this test with the gorillas is particularly significant as gorillas are the focus of much of our conservation and fundraising activity this year. The findings will shape the way we run our field conservation projects in Cameroon, and around the world, and may even see us having to conduct much more research without clothing.”

Throughout 2011 Bristol Zoo Gardens is celebrating its 175thbirthday with a host of events and activities to mark this milestone year.Keepers at work on Gorilla Island

The highlight will see the Zoo place dozens of life-size gorilla sculptures, individually painted by local artists and sponsored by local organisations, on the streets of greater Bristol in a mass public art trail for 10 weeks this summer.

As well as showcasing the wealth of creative talent the city has to offer, this eye-catching public exhibition will help stimulate the local economy and create a fun event for everyone to enjoy. The sculptures will also help convey vital messages about the extinction crisis facing gorillas and the other apes in the wild, and will help raise funds for conservation and support our work to save gorillas and other apes in Cameroon

There are just three weeks left for organisations interested in sponsoring their own Wow! Gorilla sculpture. To find out more about how to get involved, visit the Zoo website at or contact Mike Kemp on or by phone on 0117 974 7328.


For press enquiries please contact the Bristol Zoo Gardens press office:

Lucy Parkinson, T: 07960 566 548 or0117 974 7306, E:

Vanessa Hollier, T: 0117 974 7309, E:


Notes to Editors

Bristol Zoo Gardens

  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on income from visitors and supporters to continue its important work. 
  • This year Bristol Zoo celebrates its 175th anniversary and wants to do more than celebrate.
  • Over that past 175 years, the Zoo has brought six generations of Bristolians closer to wildlife, helped save over 175 species from extinction, established over 30 field conservation and research programmes   all over the world, showed 40 millionschool aged children the wonder of nature and given more than 90 million visitors a wonderful day out.
  • Throughout the year Bristol Zoo will be bringing people, businesses, charities and wildlife together to share amazing experiences that raise awareness and funds to save threatened wildlife and places. To find out more, visit
  • The Zoo will be focusing its efforts on raising funds and awareness in support of gorilla conservation and will be supporting theEuropean Association of Zoos and Aquaria Ape Campaign.
  • The EAZA Ape campaign aims to make a significant and lasting contribution to the continued survival of apes and their habitats, and is being led by Dr Bryan Carroll, the Director of Bristol Zoo.
  • Bristol Zoo has supported and been actively in gorilla conservation in Cameroon since 1998.

Bristol Zoo’s Wow! Gorillas’ project

  • The highlight of Bristol Zoo’s 175th anniversary year will see dozens of life-size gorilla sculptures placed on the streets of greater Bristol in a mass public art trail for 10 weeks from July 4th 2011.
  • Gorilla sculptures are available for sponsor by organisations, and smaller gorillas are available for sponsor by schools. To find out more about how to sponsor a gorilla, visit the website at
  • Bristol Zoo’s gorilla sculptures have been created by Wild in Art, which promotes art through the use of unique animal sculptures as three dimensional artist’s canvas.
  • As well as showcasing the wealth of creative talent the city has to offer, this eye-catching public exhibition will attract tourists to Bristol, while encouraging Bristolians to be tourists in their own city. The trail also aims to engender civic pride, stimulate the local economy and create a fun event for everyone to enjoy.