Every other year at Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Nagoya, Japan they conduct a vote among the public for the most popular animals at the zoo. This year for the first time in 46 years the gorillas were voted number one. Koalas were number two with elephants taking the third spot.
Visitors cast 19,316 ballots from Oct. 6 to Nov. 4. Gorillas secured 2,376 votes, with Koalas gaining 2,039 votes and elephants 1,873. Visitors were able to select up to three species on each voting slip which they were able to submit upon entrance to the zoo. In the beginning, the contest was held every two to four years. But in 1986 it was changed to once every two years, with the top 10 animals announced to the public.
The koalas and elephants have been consistently the winners of this popularity contest over the years. Interestingly enough, this year’s winner is also an Australian import. Shabani the western lowland gorilla came to Higashiyama from Taronga Zoo on June 27, 2007. Since then the popularity of the gorillas has increased every year. Today they are credited for the majority of zoo visit having been increasing exponentially.
Shabani gained publicity in 2007 at Higashiyama Zoo when he was 10 years old by tightrope walking. His fame took off in 2015 when the zoo noticed an increase in younger female attendance at his zoo. They were sharing pictures of Shabani all over social media particularly Twitter. He considered ‘handsome’, ‘sexy’, ‘photogenic’ and ‘metrosexual’. Part of his appeal was also the relationship between him and his two children, Kiyomasa (m) and Annie (f). He is particularly invested in spending time with his kids, playing and grooming them much more than other silverbacks. The city of Nagoya then featured him in a worker recruitment campaign because he fit the Japanese ideals of a male who is a good husband and father. These were the types of individuals they hoped to hire.
His led to coverage in news around the world and his being featured on the season 2 premiere of the TV series Not Safe with Nikki Glaser. He has been featured in advertising for such companies as Adobe, Meito Sangyo, and others. There is a DVD film dedicated to him, games, books, art and he also became the mascot for a candy line.