About the SSP

Formed in 1988, the Gorilla SSP is a group of dedicated professionals with five primary goals:

  • Ensuring the genetic and demographic health of the captive population
  • Advancing the care of captive gorillas
  • Engaging in research to help learn more about gorillas and their care
  • Educating the public about critical gorilla issues
  • Partnering with other organizations that seek to
    improve the lives of wild and captive gorillas


The Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) serves 50 zoos across the United States to help guide the management of the gorilla population. Although our primary role is in population management, we are ultimately interested in the health and well-being of ALL gorillas, including those living outside accredited zoos and in the wild. The Gorilla SSP is administered under the Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG).

The primary goals of an SSP are to treat an entire population of animals as a single unit and promote cooperation among holding institutions to ensure the long term survival of the species in captivity. A minority of SSP populations support wild populations through reintroduction programs, but the majority of SSP programs exist solely to create a sustainable captive population to advance the mission of zoos for many years to come. Holistic SSP programs extend beyond captive management to encompass scientific research, conservation, and education programs that support populations in zoos and in the wild.

On 12 September 2007, Western gorillas - the only species seen in zoos - were re-classified from "Endangered" to "Critically Endangered" by The World Conservation Union (IUCN). Threats from the bushmeat crisis (illegal, unsustainable hunting of wild animals) and Ebola virus have wiped out so many gorillas that current estimates are closer to 350,000. Many of the gorillas killed by humans or disease were in protected areas like national parks, but limited resources make it difficult for people to adequately protect gorillas and support the people who live near them. This tragic news underscores the importance of zoos in educating North Americans about the essential role of wildlife in maintaining the health of the planet, the plight of wild animals and nearby human populations, and what we here in North America can do to stop current trends toward extinction worldwide.

Program Goals


  • Research: Science guides much of the management practices of the SSP. Find out more about what research projects are currently being conducted or supported by the SSP.
  • Education: Public outreach is vital to increasing awareness about the status of gorillas in zoos and in the wild. Find out more about gorillas and how you can get involved.
  • Advocacy: Great apes face a myriad of challenges in today's world. The Gorilla SSP is committed to taking a stand on some of the critical issues facing apes as well as promoting optimal care in zoos.
  • Conservation: Critically endangered in their native Africa, gorilla populations are perilously low due to several factors including deforestation, disease and the bushmeat crisis. The SSP supports in situ activities that address these issues.
  • Husbandry: The people that look after gorillas in accredited zoos have some of the most rewarding yet challenging jobs around. The SSP serves these institutions by providing contemporary information about the proper care and management of gorilla groups in a variety of settings.


The SSP is a completely volunteer organization administered by a group of professionals 
that care about gorillas and gorilla issues. Find out more about the people behind the 
SSP here.



Although programmatically supported by AZA and our member zoos, any funding for our efforts is from independent granting programs or from the sales of our official Gorilla SSP merchandise. Please check out our products and support our program! Profits support conservation, research, and programmatic efforts of the SSP.

Our Partners

  • AZA: The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, our governing body.
  • Ape TAG: The Taxon Advisory Group for apes in AZA zoos.
  • The Chimpanzee SSP: The Species Survival Plan for chimpanzees in AZA zoos.
  • The Bonobo SSP: The Species Survival Plan for bonobos in AZA zoos.
  • The Orangutan SSP: The Species Survival Plan for orangutans in AZA zoos.
  • The Gibbon SSP: The Species Survival Plan for gibbons in AZA zoos.
  • PASA: The Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance: caring for the staggering number of apes orphaned in Africa as a result of the pet trade, the bushmeat crisis and other factors.
  • BCTF: Bushmeat Crisis Task Force: a consortium of conservation organizations and scientists dedicated to the conservation of wildlife populations threatened by commercial hunting.
  • The Canadian Ape Alliance: an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the imminent threats to the great apes and developing conservation strategies.
  • World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA): the umbrella organization for 
    the world aquarium and zoo community.

Rare Gorilla Twins Born in the Wild

February 9, 2011

Twin mountain gorillas have been born at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The male twins represent an important gain for this endangered species and mark only the fifth recorded birth of gorilla...

Zoo Atlanta Awarded Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

August 23, 2010

Funding demonstrates historic show of support for great ape veterinary care.

(photo courtesy of Zoo Atlanta)Zoo Atlanta has received a prestigious grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to lead a multi-institutional effort to examine...

Census of Gorillas to Begin in March

February 10, 2010

Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda are cooperating to complete a full census of mountain gorilla populations in the Virunga Volcanoes and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Read...

Last Chance for the Gorilla

July 29, 2009

The Year of the Gorilla prompts a re-analysis of gorilla conservation strategies in Africa.  Read more in the New Scientist...and Learn what YOU can do to help save gorillas.

And Frank makes Five...

March 6, 2009

Gorilla baby joins family on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.

Frank and Ndjia, G.g. gorilla, San Diego Zoo(photo by Ken Bohn, © San Diego Zoo) A western lowland gorilla born Sept. 4, 2008 at the San Diego Zoo holds onto the back of 14-year-old...

Timmy turns Fifty!

January 17, 2009

The Louisville Zoo wishes a happy birthday to North America's oldest male gorilla.Read more from The Courier Journal...View a video of Timmy from the Lexington Herald-Leader...Read...

Zoo Takes a Lead in Gorilla Rearing

January 5, 2009

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a leader in hand-raising and surrogacy programs for gorillas. Read more from the Columbus Local News...

Gorilla Intelligence Revealed

October 15, 2008

Research at Lincoln Park Zoo reveals gorilla cognitive abilities. Read more from the Chicago Tribune...

Good-bye to Jenny

September 8, 2008

The world's oldest captive gorilla dies at the Dallas Zoo. Read more from the Dallas Morning News...

Abuse of Apes in Films

August 28, 2008

A new PETA documentary exposes abusive training practices used on ape actors. Read more from the Los Angeles Times...

Good News for Great Apes

August 5, 2008

New census data from Republic of Congo dramatically increases population estimates for critically endangered Western lowland gorillas. Read more from the Wildlife Conservation Society...