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Meet the Artist Behind the Gorilla Statue

It was back in 1990 when Zoo visitors were first introduced to a statue of a gorilla and baby, since then there have been countless photos taken with it. Perhaps you have one yourself?

Twenty-seven years later  the fibreglass statue has remained a popular feature - some visitors even come in to get regular photos alongside it as they age! For some it is a pictorial rite of passage.

The gorilla statue was initially included in the Conservation Discovery Centre, now the Reptile Encounter, before being moved nearer to the front entrance where its prominence and popularity grew.

Recently we had the artist behind the iconic statue, Bill Dennis, come in to replace the beloved gorilla with a new, but almost identical one, made from the same mould. (It was also made at the same time, if that means anything)

“The eyes are made from polyester clear casting resin - it’s a three-mould job for the eyes,” Bill said.

Within a few minutes of the new statue being installed on the bench there were already half a dozen kids posing next to it, unaware that the man who had created it was standing close by.

“That is the kind of public art I like to do, where people really appreciate it and enjoy it,” Bill said.

While Bill may not get recognised in public, he has a very impressive list of popular movies where his artistic work has been featured.

“I did Alien, Superman one and two, Star Wars and Indiana Jones,” Bill said.

In more recent years, Bill worked on the Harry Potter, James Bond and The Bourne Identity franchises, helping to bring life to props and sets. Through his work he has met some iconic stars, including Sophia Lauren, Michael Caine and Sean Connery.

For us here at the Zoo, his best work is featured on a wooden bench, welcoming and farewelling visitors.

Alan Gill, Perth Zoo’s Interpretation Coordinator said: “The statue helps visitors forge a connection with the amazing wildlife we share this planet with.”

“It breaks down the barrier of language and encourages visitors of all ages and backgrounds to have a tactile experience.”

There are several animal statues around the Zoo grounds, including our Galapagos Tortoises, kangaroo and baby elephants. But the gorilla remains one of the most popular ones.

“The way it is designed, with one arm on the bench, it invites visitors to come and sit for a photo,” Alan said.

“I’ve seen many young children having conversations with this gorilla sculpture too - it really engages their imagination.”

Do you have a photo with the gorilla sculpture that you would like to share with us? Tag us @PerthZoo on twitter and @perthzoo on Facebook or Instagram.

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