London icon returns to centre stage after 33 years

Press release - 24 January 2010

Sexual Nature opens at the Natural History Museum, London, on Friday 11 February 2011

A London icon, western lowland gorilla Guy was made famous during his residency at London Zoo. He will return to the limelight 33 years after his death, in a new exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum, opening in 2011.

Guy the gorilla, whose body was donated to the Museum’s research collection in 1978, has not been on display since the 1980s. A superb specimen of masculinity, with a chest measurement of 183 centimetres and a neck circumference of almost a metre, Guy will take pride of place in the Sexual Nature exhibition to help show the behavioural strategy of dominant males.

Wild male gorillas dominate harems of females and use muscle to defend feeding territories. Many other animals, including stags and sperm whales, compete with each other for a piece of the action and this specimen rich exhibition will include more than 100 real Museum specimens, allowing visitors to experience the diversity of methods exploited in seduction and reproduction when it opens on Friday 11 February 2011.

Tate Greenhalgh, exhibition developer at the Natural History Museum, said ‘Using specimens from the Museum’s vast collections Sexual Nature will reveal the intimate side of nature and explore how scientists are laying bare the facts of life. Guy is a great example of a dominant male. Male gorillas need to be big to compete for harems of females and defend their territories. The exhibition will also explore the vast diversity of other animal domestic arrangements, for example, hyena species with dominant females and seahorses in which the male gives birth.’

From the eye-watering: the barnacle's penis measures up to 30 times its body length, to the eye-popping: large testes can indicate highly promiscuous species, Sexual Nature will take a provocative look at the birds and the bees. Anything goes in the animal kingdom and visitors to Sexual Nature will be asked to leave preconceptions at the door to discover the science of sex.

Tickets are now available at www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/coming-soon
Sexual Nature contains frank information and imagery about sex.

More about western lowland gorillas and Guy:

  • Although mature male western lowland gorillas control harems of females, they only engage in sex a few times a year.
  • Astoundingly, male western lowland gorillas have the smallest genitalia of all primates, with an average erect penis just three centimetres long and testes roughly the size of kidney beans.
  • Western lowland gorillas are the world’s largest primates. Males weigh 140–275 kilogrammes, and Guy grew to a massive 240 kilogrammes, was 1.6 metres tall and had a giant arm span of 2.74 metres.
  • Guy was born on 30 May, 1946 and arrived in London from Paris Zoo on Guy Fawkes night, 5 November, 1947, hence his name.
  • London Zoo tried for many years to obtain a mate for Guy and in 1969 was offered a five-year-old female gorilla named Lomie. Sadly, they failed to produce any offspring.
  • Guy died of heart failure aged 32 in 1978, during an operation on his infected teeth.
  • Guy’s appearance was fearsome, but he had a gentle nature. Reportedly, when small birds flew into his cage he held them up to examine them carefully before setting them free.
  • In 1982, Guy was commemorated by a bronze statue at London Zoo, which is located near the entrance by the pavilion where the beloved Guy spent his final years.
    Western lowland gorillas are on the IUCN Red List for endangered species and are threatened mostly by destruction of their habitat.

 

Visitor information

  • Admission: adult £8*, child and concession £4*, schoolchild £3.50*, family £21*
    (These prices include an optional donation to the Museum. Prices excluding the donation are adult £7, child and concession £3.50 and family £18)
    free for Members, Patrons and children under four
  • Dates and times: 11 February – 2 October 2011, 10.00–17.50 (last admission 17.30)
  • Visitor enquiries: 020 7942 5000 Monday–Friday, 020 7942 5011 Saturday–Sunday
  • Website: www.nhm.ac.uk

* If you are a UK taxpayer and pay the Gift Aid admission ticket price, the Natural History Museum can reclaim the tax on the whole ticket price you pay. For every £100 worth of tickets sold, we can claim an extra £28 from Government. This means you can further support the work of the Museum. The standard admission charges are adult £8, concession £4 and family £21. The right of entry is the same for visitors with or without the voluntary donation.

Ends

Notes for editors

  • A media preview of this exhibition will be held on Wednesday 9 February 2011. To secure entry please contact the Natural History Museum press office.
  • Winner of Visit London’s 2009 Best London for Free Experience Award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in over 68 countries.