Image: Bobby the gorilla
Steve Parsons  /  AP
Bobby the male gorilla rests during the opening of the newly opened gorilla kingdom at London Zoo Thursday. The new habitat has ditched conventional cages and bars for the environs of an African rainforest.
updated 3/29/2007 9:11:06 PM ET 2007-03-30T01:11:06

Heated waterfalls and a private gym sound like amenities one would expect at a swank hotel, not the new gorilla enclosure at the London Zoo, which opened on Thursday. Zookeepers are hoping the new luxuries and the mock Gabonese rain forest clearing will encourage two of their residents, Effie and Bongo Junior, to mate.

"Effie's playing it cool," said zookeeper Tracy Lee of the 14-year-old female. "She's so beautiful."

The two hopeful lovebirds will share the 777,000 square yard enclosure with an older female named Zaire, who is no longer fertile.

"He's a bit bemused by it all," said zookeeper Tracy Lee of Bongo Junior, a 23-year-old male known as "Bobby," who has never become a father before. "He's got two women after him and he's feeling the pressure."

Keepers have been speaking to Effie, who came earlier this month from Leipzig Zoo in Germany, to help her settle in, said Daniel Simmonds, one of those caring for her.

"I say things in German like 'Effie you're so cute' and 'Was ist das?' (What is that?). It's small pep talk," he said. "They're not cats and dogs. They're very intelligent animals. It may seem silly but it's very important."

Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, attended the opening, unveiling a plaque to commemorate the event.

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