Truly Great Apes
Two animals that helped put the San Diego Zoo on the map arrived in 1931: gorillas Mbongo and Ngagi. The two males were both about five years old when famous explorers and San Diego Zoo friends Martin and Osa Johnson gave them to the Zoo. There were few gorillas in zoos at the time, and little was known about them. Scientists came from around the world to observe their behavior and wrote papers about their findings. The apes made national news and had their pictures and stories printed in newspapers and magazines. They were a sensation with Zoo visitors, and the two gentle giants were particular favorites of Belle Benchley’s. She got to know them well and visited them often. She also wrote a series of articles about them for ZOONOOZ magazine as they got older, so Zoo members got to know them well, too. Mbongo and Ngagi are still remembered at the Zoo today: you’ll find handsome bronze sculptures of them on the front plaza.