Zoo celebrates birth of endangered gorilla

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POWELL – The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is celebrating the arrival of a baby western lowland gorilla, who was born during the early morning hours of Saturday, June 29, to first-time mother, Sue, and experienced father, Ktembe.

The zoo’s expert Animal Care team continues to monitor the gorillas and report that Sue is very attentive and providing excellent care to her little one, who she nuzzles and cradles closely. To ensure that Sue and her newborn have time to bond with minimal interruptions, the care team will determine the sex of the baby at a later date. The western lowland gorilla is a social species, and Ktembe and the other adult females — Nia and Cassie (both age 30) — are together with Sue and her baby but also respectfully providing them with some space. Four-year-old female, Jamani (born to Cassie and Ktembe), is more curious and is gently corrected by other members of the troop if she seems a little too eager for playtime with her new half sister.

While the troop is adjusting well, the indoor viewing habitat in the zoo’s Congo Expedition region will remain closed for several days to provide the gorillas with some more privacy. In the meantime, guests can view the zoo’s other gorilla troop in the outdoor habitat. This troop consists of silverback, Mac, and females Kinyani, Tabibu, Mo’ana, Sully, Kamina, Zahra and Kwame.

Starting on Monday, July 8, guests are invited to visit the newly-expanded gorilla family. Viewing opportunities will be available from 11 a.m. until the zoo closes (6 p.m. in July). Visitors may have the opportunity to see the gorillas, though the troop will have access to the indoor habitat and behind-the-scenes areas, so baby viewing is not guaranteed. These hours will remain limited for the near future while the gorillas continue to bond.

“For months, our care team has been busy preparing for the baby’s arrival, and we are thrilled that the time has finally come to welcome this important new addition. With tiny hands and beautiful big brown eyes that melt our hearts, this baby is absolutely precious—in regard to both the cuteness factor and what the baby represents for this species’ future. We are proud of the dedication of our care teams who diligently work to provide the gorillas with top quality care and wellbeing while continuing the legacy of the Columbus Zoo’s renown gorilla program,” said Audra Meinelt, curator of the Columbus Zoo’s Congo Expedition region.

Sue was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo on Sept. 27, 2004 and arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2014. Ktembe was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo on March 13, 1997 and arrived at the Columbus Zoo from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in August 2017. The pairing of Sue and Ktembe was recommended by the Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to maintain genetic diversity of threatened and endangered species in professional care. This most recent baby is the 35th gorilla to be born at the Columbus Zoo, where history was made in 1956 with Colo, the first gorilla to be born in professional care. Colo made history again as she lived to be 60 years old—the oldest gorilla in a zoo at that time. Though she passed away in 2017, her legacy—and the Zoo’s gorilla program—continues to have far-reaching impacts in helping to protect the future of western lowland gorillas.

According to the International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™, western lowland gorillas (gorilla gorilla) are listed as critically endangered. Habitat loss and deforestation have historically been the primary cause for declining populations of Africa’s great apes, but experts now agree that the illegal commercial bushmeat trade has surpassed habitat loss as the primary threat to ape populations—particularly for western lowland gorillas.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a proud supporter of several gorilla conservation projects in Central Africa, from research to rescue and rehabilitation missions. In 1991, the Columbus Zoo also founded Partners In Conservation (PIC), a grassroots effort to protect African wildlife through humanitarian projects. Over the last 30 years, PIC has supported more than 60 projects focused in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In addition to the world-class gorilla breeding program, the Columbus Zoo has been known for over 30 years for its successful gorilla fostering program. The Zoo has been recognized internationally for the care of gorillas in social groups, including expanding social groups through the placement of young gorillas with foster mothers when their biological mothers were unable to care for them. Over the years, nine gorillas born at the Columbus Zoo have been raised through this fostering program and seven others have been sent from other zoos to receive care.

Submitted by the Columbus Zoo.

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