Before he died last summer, Bom Bom left behind one final surprise for the Oklahoma City Zoo staff.
During a move between enclosures in late May or June, Bom Bom, a male gorilla, was with one of the zoo's female gorillas long enough to inseminate her, zookeepers said.
After a nine-month pregnancy, mother Kelele gave birth to a baby on Valentine's morning.
Bom Bom died unexpectedly June 26 at age 36 of a ruptured aneurysm in his heart.
The sex of the baby isn't known yet because its mother has held it closely since it was born, but curator Laura Bottaro said mother and baby appear to be doing well.
“The baby is clinging to its mother, and we have seen him nurse several times,” Bottaro said. “Those are very good signs. The baby strikes me as being very healthy.”
Zoo staffers discovered the pregnancy in July.
“We do pregnancy tests on the females on a monthly basis,” Bottaro said. “We did three more after the first positive test. We wanted to be sure. One of the things that made it easier later is that Kelele will allow her (keepers) to do ultrasounds on her, so we were able to monitor its development.”
Thursday's birth is the first of a gorilla at the Oklahoma City Zoo since George was born in 2004.
Bom Bom was also George's father.
Kelele and the unnamed baby have stayed in the day room at the Great EscApe exhibit.
A portion of the exhibit will be closed to allow for the mother and baby to bond, zoo spokeswoman Tara Henson said.
Zoo staff will be on hand to answer questions about the baby and mother, and updates will be provided on the zoo's Twitter account.
Keepers are monitoring the baby and mother 24 hours a day.
The birth of the baby is significant for the overall gorilla population in zoos, but also for those who work closely with the gorillas and who cared for Bom Bom during his life.
“It's a huge deal for everyone here and at other zoos, but it's also very significant for us because of who the baby's father is,” Bottaro said.
The zoo also has added Togo, a 24-year-old adult male silverback, who arrived before Christmas and has been in quarantine.
Togo is currently being integrated into the zoo's gorilla troop.
He was transferred from the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minn. The move was recommended by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan.
The zoo had sought another male silverback after Bom Bom died.
“Once a male in a population has moved or passes away, another male that predominantly has been a bachelor may have the opportunity to become a leader of a family-type troop,” curator Robin Newby said.
“This also ensures diversity within the total gorilla population.”