The Oklahoma City Zoo has welcomed a new addition to its gorilla ranks with the birth of a female Western lowland gorilla.
The as-yet unnamed gorilla was born early Saturday morning inside the Great EscApe day room. The baby gorilla weighed about 4 pounds at the time of its birth and appears to be healthy and strong, zoo veterinarian Jennifer D’Agostino said. The baby gorilla is currently off exhibit.
However, its mother, Ndjole, did not demonstrate any signs of maternal care toward the baby after giving birth. Given that, zoo staff will hand-rear the infant for the time being.
“Ndjole was given several opportunities to bond with her baby within the first 24 hours and didn’t show any interest in her, putting the newborn’s life at risk,” D’Agostino said.
The mother not accepting the baby does not mean it will be permanently without a mother of its own kind. Zoo staff will provide 24-hour-a-day care for the infant in an off-exhibit area. The zoo will work with the Gorilla Species Survival Plan through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to determine if the baby will be returned to the gorilla group or placed with a surrogate mother.
This is the second baby born to Ndjole, an 18-year-old Western lowland gorilla, who came to the zoo in 2010 from the San Diego Zoo. Her first baby, a male, is a member of the zoo’s bachelor gorilla troop. During his infancy, Ndjole accepted him normally.
The zoo has had success in placing primates with surrogates. In 2012, Ruben, a chimp, arrived in Oklahoma City from another zoo after his mother died. The zoo was able to successfully place him with a surrogate who raised him.
This is the second birth of a Western lowland gorilla at the zoo in the past year and a half. Leom was born in Feb. 2013.