RAISING AMERICA’S ZOO:
How Two Wild Gorillas Helped
Transform the National Zoo
To be released: Summer 2017
In 1955, a young former Marine ventured to the Belgian Congo on a month-long adventure safari to view Africa’s diverse wildlife. When Arthur “Nick” Arundel boarded a commercial airliner for home, he carried a baby gorilla in each arm. Their destination was the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., known as “America’s zoo.” The wild apes arrived at an antiquated zoo, which fought for decades to showcase gorillas, but knew little about how to raise them. Their journey from Africa to America was the beginning of dramatic changes for the gorillas—Nikumba and Moka—and for the zoo that would evolve from a menagerie-type park to an internationally-respected center focused on conservation of both captive and wild species.
Raising America’s Zoo shares the heartbreak and triumphs of these first-generation zoo gorillas and their caregivers who worked tirelessly to make their lives better. Witness the personal story of Nick Arundel, a man who at first celebrated their capture, then grew to regret his tale of hunting gorillas, and spent the rest of his life as an advocate for animal conservation. Experience the National Zoo’s voyage of contentious responsibility, limited capacity, joyful discoveries, and urgent deadlines to preserve western lowland gorillas. As gorillas move closer to becoming extinct in the wild due to habitat destruction, disease, and poaching, the zoo community’s mission to save gorillas may be more important now than ever before.