Sunday, February 28, 2010

....Newborn Gorilla At Louisville Zoo Is A Female....

February 27th, 2010

It’s finally confirmed – the gender of first baby gorilla born in North America this year at the Louisville Zoo is female.

The baby was born February 6, 2010, to Louisville Zoo’s 20-year-old western lowland gorilla Mia Moja. While the baby continues to cling tightly to mom nearly all the time, ZooKeepers have been able to get several close looks to determine and verify the baby is a girl.

A naming contest for the baby is being planned and details will hopefully be announced soon.

“I’m excited, either way—boy or girl,” Gorilla Forest Keeper Michelle Wise said. “On the night the baby was born, Mia Moja made a big fluffy nest out of hay and a soft, pink blanket and settled herself and the baby into it. I think maybe she was giving us a hint at the time with the pink blanket!”

This is the second gorilla ever born in the Zoo’s 41-year history. (The first was male Azizi born to Makari on December 4, 2003, a year after Gorilla Forest opened in May of 2002.) The father is 22-year-old silverback Mshindi. It is Mshindi’s first offspring and Mia Moja’s second. She proved herself a good mother with the birth and subsequent raising of Olympia, who was born in 1996 at Zoo Atlanta and still resides there.

Mia Moja and baby are continuing to bond and baby is staying awake longer, looking around and being very observant with her big, brown eyes.

Since there are only 354 western lowland gorillas in 52 zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, each birth is a celebration of life and a step toward preserving the species.

“We hope the community will come and see the precious baby,” Louisville Zoo Director John Walczak said. “This remarkable baby girl is engaging and inspiring—a true ambassador for her relatives in the remnant wild. Because of her, we hope visitors will be motivated to learn more about conservation and preservation, which are at the core of our mission to better the bond between people and our planet.”

Western lowland gorillas are a critically endangered species and the wild population has declined rapidly over the past decade. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are approximately 100,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild. However, there is no truly accurate census as these elusive apes inhabit some of Africa’s densest and most remote rainforests.

Mia Moja became pregnant as part of a recommendation from the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), a collaborative effort of North American zoos designed to encourage a healthy gorilla population in captivity and to ensure that the population remains viable, genetically-diverse and self-sustaining.

Female western lowland gorilla Kweli (pronounced “quay lee”) is also housed with the baby, Mia Moja and Mshindi. She arrived at the Louisville Zoo in 2008 from Cincinnati.

This birth brings the total gorilla population at the Louisville Zoo to 12. For more information on the Louisville Zoo’s gorillas in Gorilla Forest, visit

Even during cold weather, visitors can view the gorillas inside Gorilla Forest’s comfortable, climate-controlled sanctuary. But note, in Gorilla Forest the animals rotate through the exhibit spaces on a daily basis so baby, mom Mia Moja, father Mshindi and Kweli will not always be visible.

Starting Monday, March 1, the Zoo will be operating on its spring and summer schedule. You will be able enter the Zoo daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (exit by 6 p.m.) For more information, visit


A gorilla’s gestation period is about 8 ½ months
Labor can range anywhere from 20 minutes to 2.5 hours
Gorilla babies usually weigh at least 4 pounds and are about the size of human babies
Nursing usually occurs in the first 24 hours
The baby will begin eating solids at 2 months of age
The mother may first put her baby down for extended times at 3 months of age
The baby may begin weaning as early as 4 months of age
A baby begins to crawl away from mom and starts exploring at 4-5 months of age