It takes a lot to silence a gaggle (a scoop? gutter?) of journalists.

But the first glimpse of New Zealand's only silverback gorillas shut us up quicker than a free buffet.

Sat astride a grassy mound, 12-year-old gorilla Fataki surveyed his new surroundings at Orana Wildlife Park on the western fringes of Christchurch.

Inquisitive black eyes set deep in his hulking head, on top of impressively muscle-ripped shoulders, inspected the 20 or so journalists and cameramen who'd arrived to document his unveiling.

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The gorillas in their new home at Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch. Photo / Joe Morgan
The gorillas in their new home at Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch. Photo / Joe Morgan

One look was all he required, evidently. The great ape got up and loped inside his new $6 million house.

The experience took our breath away.

"Oh wow," was as eloquent as people who get paid for their words managed.

The 190kg dominant male Fataki arrived with Fuzu, 7, and their half-brother, Mahali, 6, at Orana from Taronga Zoo in Sydney last month as part of an international zoo-based breeding programme.

Tomorrow, the New Zealand public will get to view gorillas for the first time.

The Western Lowland gorillas have gradually got used to their new home.

After his quick departure this morning, Fataki soon re-emerged to his large outdoor play area that features sturdily-built platforms, power poles, thick ropes and areas to roam.

Rob Clifford, Orana's head of exotics, said it's important the spacious concrete-walled area was designed for maximum stimulation.

But he explained that the powerful primates also need quiet spaces to occasionally escape the public's prying eyes.

"People have misconceptions about gorillas. Yes, they are big powerful animals, but really they are just big softies," Mr Clifford said.

"It doesn't take a lot to hurt their feelings or upset them. And it takes a lot to build up a relationship with them. If they don't trust you, you're mud to them."

Zoo staff have already heard them beating their chests, which they say makes a hollow "bongo drum" sound.

The herbivorous bachelors also have big appetites.

And contrary to popular belief, they don't dine out solely on bananas, which are only a special treat.

Each gorilla eats 9kg of vegetables a day, including lettuce, cabbage, capsicum, egg plant, and onions.

The zoo staff has enjoyed getting to know the highly-intelligent yet critically endangered animals, which can live to 50 years in captivity.

Mischievous youngsters Fuzu and Mahali are "thick as thieves", Mr Clifford said.

They like to wind up their older brother who is twice their size.

"They do silly things like slap him on the back of the head and run for their lives," said Mr Clifford.

"They are a true family group. Fataki is the big brother, and I liken it to asking a 17-year-old boy to babysit his younger brothers on a Friday night. "Sometimes he chases them. They have to learn he's the boss. But these two are slow learners...

"We're getting a big kick out of watching all those small behaviours. And people will be able to sit and enjoy it all too."

The public can get even closer to the impressive males inside their purpose-built enclosure.

Inside today, Fataki, who has the strength of 11 men, had a closer inspection of us media types.

Breath from his flared nostrils moistened condensation on the thick glass as he stared us down.

Then, he retreated to his nest of wood chips, apparently still wholly unimpressed by what he saw.