Posted October 2017
The Milwaukee County Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of a western lowland gorilla on Sept. 9. The baby is a female, and was born to mother, Naku, and father, Cassius. Zookeepers report mother and baby are doing well. Zookeepers named the baby Zahra, a Swahili word meaning blossom, flower or beauty.
Naku is a wonderful and very attentive mother, expertly nursing and caring for her newborn. The baby appears healthy, as keepers have reported her making eye contact with Naku and gripping onto mom’s stomach, as all newborns gorillas should do during their first six months of life. After that, the baby will “ride” on Naku’s back, eventually venturing off from her when ready. The baby will continue to nurse from mom until 4 to 5 years old; with solid foods introduced after the first few months. Babies may begin mouthing and exploring solid food/scraps that fall from mom’s mouth at three to four months of age.
Zookeepers estimate the baby most likely weighed about 3 pounds at birth, and may now weigh about 4 pounds.
In addition to Naku, Cassius and the newborn, the family group also includes female Shalia and her offspring, ~3-year-old male, Sulaiman. Cassius is protective of Naku and the baby, while Sulaiman behaves not unlike a typical toddler – curious, full of energy and eager to pester the new addition. For the most part, Naku is tolerant of his attention.
In the lowland tropical rainforests of central Africa, western lowland gorillas are critically endangered, but are more common than their relatives, the mountain gorillas. Western lowland gorillas face increasing threats from disease, wildlife trade, poaching and human encroachment. Over the past 20-25 years, more than 60% of western lowland gorilla populations have seen a marked decline.
It’s the Zoo’s hope that Naku and baby, along with the rest of the family – Cassius, Shalia and Sulaiman – will be on exhibit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Off-exhibit days: Mondays and Thursdays.
As Naku and the baby become acclimated to the indoor area, zookeepers hope to gradually extend the time the family is on public display.
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