On September 24, 1974, Charles was sent to the Toronto Zoo, where he has lived ever since. His name was given to him because his particularly round face reminded the staff at the zoo of Charlie Brown. When Charles was first brought to the zoo, he was considered rather unattractive because he was missing part of his hair and had lesions and/or sores that bespeckled his body.
Charles, along with Amanda, Barney, Caroline, Josephine, Julia and Samantha, were part of the Toronto Zoo's first acquisition of a group of wild-caught gorillas for the newly opened zoo. The Toronto Zoo opened its doors in August 1974 and since then some 33 million visitors have seen the zoo's gorillas (a figure which grows by about a million people each year). This group of seven gorillas has conceived over 33 children and are represented by more than 23 living offspring, comprising three generations. As of 2016, Charles has sired 15 children, of which ten still survive today.
The Zoo is divided into seven zoogeographic regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia, Canadian Domain and the Tundra Trek. Animals are displayed indoors in tropical pavilions and outdoors in naturalistic environments, with viewing at many levels.