Gorilla celebrates birthday with jungle-themed party at San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo Tuesday celebrated the third birthday of a western lowland gorilla, part of a critically endangered species.

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Zoo Tuesday celebrated the third birthday of a western lowland gorilla, part of a critically endangered species.

Denny and three other members of his troop munched on treat-filled gourds, fruit and an ice cake. The birthday boy went straight to the fruit, which was stuck on glass at the front of the exhibit, and collected popcorn.

“Denny is starting to be more adventurous,” said Jill Andrews, animal care manager for primates. “He’s now spending more time away from mom, and he’s always fun to watch as he exhibits more of his curious personality.”

He’s named after philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who funded the creation and development of the San Diego Zoo Kids television channel, which is shown at more than 120 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses across 30 U.S. states and overseas.

Threats to gorillas include people hunting gorillas for food, called bushmeat, and loss of habitat due to logging and mining. The past 15 years have seen a dramatic decline in gorilla numbers, with almost half of the entire eastern gorilla species population believed to have been wiped out.

San Diego Zoo Global has partnered with multiple organizations and local conservationists in Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon to share data on gorilla genetic variations across regions, and to promote community-led conservation initiatives.