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Dec 14, 2007

Birth of a western lowland gorilla

Making the most of an unexpected birth!

On December 15 2006, as a result of pioneering fertility treatment, one of our western lowland gorillas gave birth. There were concerns about the survival of both gorillas.

The baby was spotted by a visiting member of the media who leaked the news to a TV channel before we could safely take the gorilla off display. With a more timely birth and our usual embargo period, we had anticipated PR starting in February 2007.

We were suddenly in a situation where we had to respond rapidly to national media requests, while maximising the press opportunity. We had to do this with great sensitivity for the animals involved as there were concerns for the health of both. ,

In addition, with no new exhibits planned for 2007, we had potentially already had our main media hit and largest potential audience driver for that year happen, pre-Christmas 2006.

Our immediate response was to plan key messages, ensuring that species conservation, our work with CWAF and the scientific angles of the birth gave depth to what could have been just a ‘cute’ Christmas story. We then scheduled spokespeople. Because of their condition, we didn’t want to subject the animals to media filming or mass photography. We went to press with images and footage taken by our own keepers and negotiated with a local TV station to manage national distribution of them.

At the beginning of 2007, we evaluated existing plans within the Zoo for the first quarter and developed some, where necessary, so that they could be both linked to the gorilla birth or be standalone, in the event of either gorilla not surviving.

Bristol Zoo Gardens

COMMENDATION received in BIAZA Awards 2007 for Best public relations project

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