Kioja is a first-time mother, but she is taking to it like an old pro.
The Calgary Zoo said the 15-year-old western lowland gorilla gave birth on March 9 and quickly began nursing, cuddling and bonding with her baby. Officials say they are all “positive mothering behaviours,” which has them cautiously optimistic for the baby’s survival.
“After giving birth she immediately scooped up her new little one and has been carrying the baby with her as she moves about her habitat, resting with it on her chest. The zookeepers were heartened to see signs of the baby nursing, as well as Kioja showing it affection and checking on it consistently,” the zoo said in a statement.
What’s more, the entire gorilla troop at zoo is also welcoming the new baby.
There are perhaps 100,000 gorillas left in the wild, and this captive birth is part of the Species Survival Plan designed to maintain genetic diversity in zoos.
“With approximately 350 western lowland gorillas in the North American captive population, every gorilla counts,” Dr. Malu Celli, the zoo’s curator, said in a statement. “Wild populations are decreasing at incredible rates, with more than 80 per cent lost in just three generations, so we need to protect every one of these critically endangered animals.”
This is the first gorilla born at the Calgary Zoo since 2008. Kakinga, the 37-year-old male silverback who fathered the baby, is also taking an interest in parenthood.
“The gorilla family has been curious and coming close to get a glimpse of the baby, but have been maintaining a respectful space – which is encouraged by father and silverback Kakinga’s protective behaviour,” the zoo added.
The baby’s sex won’t be determined for a few weeks, partly because dad is staying so close to the baby, zookeepers just can’t get a good look.
While mother and baby are bonding – and trying to catch up on some sleep – their habitat is off-limits to the public. The zoo said on Facebook it may reopen the exhibit next week.