Official Website of the Dewar Wildlife Trust, Inc.
• Fredericksburg, Texas, USA •

We may not have had Mountain Gorillas, but we did have Gorillas in the Mountains!

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What was Dewar Wildlife?

Dewar Wildlife (DW) was an advanced holding facility for zoo gorillas that could not be housed in zoos.. In addition, the DW property was intended to be used for educational camps or programs in conjunction with schools or universities. Construction of the facility started in 1997. Phase 0, consisting of Silverback Villa and support buildings enabled the Dewar Willdife Trust to bring in its first gorilla resident in early 2003. Oliver arrived at the facility in 2006, and left in 2009. Two male gorillas from Zoo Atlanta (Jasiri and Kidogo) also resided there for three years (from 2012-2014).

What is the Dewar Wildlife Mission Statement?

To help promote knowledge and concern about wildlife conservation in conjunction with operating a facility to assist zoos in providing the best possible housing and care for animals

What type of gorillas will be at Dewar Wildlife?

Zoos and the Gorilla SSP (Species Survival Plan) work together to ensure the survival, welfare, and genetic diversity of the captive gorilla population, which is primarily the Western Lowland subspecies (gorilla gorilla gorilla).

Zoos and the SSP strive to place each gorilla into a stable family or social group, but this is not always possible. DW provides a complementary facility where individual attention can be directed toward those gorillas that cannot be placed in a zoo setting. This will enable zoos to concentrate on breeding and displaying gorillas, and emphasize education about the species and its conservation.

Why would a gorilla not fit into a zoo’s plans?

With about 850 gorillas in captivity and no gorillas legally being exported from their native habitat in Africa since the mid 1970’s, zoos and the SSP are faced with the challenge of ensuring genetic diversity for the long-term future of the zoo population. Management of these animals can create challenges, including:

Surplus males: Zoos generally house gorilla groups with one adult male, the silverback, who leads the family group and controls breeding, as in the wild. When he comes of age, a young blackback often must leave his natal group to avoid in-breeding with siblings and conflict with the dominant male. Some zoos house two silverbacks together, but this is rare, due to space limitations. Since the early 1980’s there has been a increase in male gorilla births at some zoos, creating “excess” males. Bachelor groups are being established at certain zoos to address this problem.

Genetic redundancy: Successful breeding of zoo gorillas was not achieved until 1956 (Colo, in Columbus, Ohio). To ensure the long-term future of the gene pool of zoo gorillas, the SSP was created to monitor and make recommendations on who to breed to ensure a viable genetic future. Some gorillas are too closely related or over-represented in the captive population and thus genetically redundant.

Individual personality/history: Like humans, gorillas have unique needs and personalities and sometimes do not respond well in a specific zoo setting (feces-throwing, aggression, etc.). These individuals can be labeled “problem” animals insofar as they cannot fit into a zoo’s plans for a display group. Often gorillas are sent to several different zoos in an effort to find them places in the captive gorilla world, but this is not always successful.

Issues of age, health, and gender (excess male, primarily): Some gorillas are not able to be housed with other animals due to their own preferences and needs.

Zoo facilities renovation: During the construction of new facilities, zoos often have no choice but to keep gorillas off-display for a significant amount of time, or to break up working family groups, since moving them together is not possible in many cases. DW seeks to help those zoo gorillas who are often not on public display for this and other reasons.

What is the difference between Dewar Wildlife and a zoo?

DW is not open to the public (although private tours and regularly-scheduled tours are available), thus 100% of the effort and resources can be directed towards the needs of each individual gorilla at the facility. Educational visits, by appointment, will be encouraged. Although breeding of gorillas will not be a goal, as social animals, they will be housed together as much as possible.

Who will own and have the final say about the gorillas?

Each zoo will continue to “own” any gorilla housed at DW and retain ultimate control of the gorilla’s future. Housing and care of the gorillas will be the responsibility of DW, with each zoo’s guidance and cooperation.

Where is Dewar Wildlife located?

DW is situated on 186 acres in the North Georgia (Blue Ridge) mountains, with potential facilities for gorillas and keepers in a private, secluded and temperate climate. DW is less than a two hour drive from Zoo Atlanta and the Knoxville Zoo, and an hour+ from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

What facilities are available at Dewar Wildlife?

DW has access off a paved, county-maintained road. A large valley and fenced-in pastures are surrounded and protected by high mountain ridges including Paris Mountain to its ridge line at 2,300 feet. Several clear mountain streams have their source on the property, which also has natural ravines and forested areas which lend themselves ideally to providing large natural habitats for gorillas.

How is Dewar Wildlife staffed?

One of the world's most experienced gorilla keeping professionals, Peter Halliday, was the original Project Manager and worked at DW for a decade, designing much of the facility and overseeing its construction. Pete is currently the Director of the Scottsbluff, NE zoo. Animal Care is now handled by Charles Horton of Zoo Atlanta (Charles was the Curator of Primates at Zoo Atlanta and was Willie B's keeper for over 25 years) and Bobby Fellows who works with Charles Horton to look after the current gorillas at Dewar Wildlife .

Dr. Frances Cipullo, the DW veterinarian who, with his staff, is on call 24 hours a day consults with other veterinarians who specialize in gorillas to provide the best possible medical care.

What is life like for gorillas at Dewar Wildlife?

Enrichment is a primary goal, according to each individual gorilla’s specific personality and requirements. DW believes that deep bedding, browse, climbing structures and a variety of hiding, resting, and play areas are all essential elements for an enriched life in captivity. When and as possible, gorillas will be housed in groups – bachelor groups, if necessary. If a gorilla must be housed alone, enrichment will be intensified based on the individual’s needs and interests. Gorillas are given the choice to be in- or outdoors 24 hours a day, in protected, secure, and appropriate habitats.

How is Dewar Wildlife financed?

DW is funded by the Dewar Wildlife Trust Inc., which was established by Dewar to fund various wildlife conservation efforts including Dewar Wildlife. The Dewars’ goal is to be an adjunct or ally to the zoo world. As a 501(c)(3), non-profit charity, the DWT accepts tax-deductible donations from individuals and companies and guarantees that 100% of the donation goes towards helping gorillas (unlike many wildlife organizations where up to 50% or more can often go to marketing companies, administrative overhead, etc.).

Who is Steuart Dewar?

C. E. Steuart Dewar was born in London, England and came to the USA with his parents as a young student. He studied ethology, biochemistry and music at the University of Chicago as an undergraduate and graduate student. He founded Dewar Information Systems Corporation (DISC) in 1975 and as CEO sold it 20 years later to help finance Dewar Wildlife. Considered a top computer expert and one of four founding fathers of the electronic publishing industry, Steuart’s professional and financial acumen is now directed towards the business side of DW for which he is the President and CEO.

Dewar Wildlife is certified by

as a related facility

The DWT is a 501(c)(3)
non-profit corporation

Mission Statement


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