Gorilla keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park arrived to a surprising workday on October 19. They discovered that their expectant Western Lowland Gorilla mom-to-be, Kokamo, had given birth to a tiny female!
The baby weighed approximately 4 pounds at birth, and staff observed her nursing with her new mom. After a health assessment of mom and baby, the Zoo reports that keepers kept to their normal routine and released all of the Gorillas from the troop back into the exhibit.
Aside from the initial assessment, animal care staff don’t intend to have contact with the baby (which has not yet been named) until she is much older.
Keepers report that Kokomo is a very protective and attentive mother. She is also allowing the other members of the troop to check out the new baby, but the Zoo stresses that visitors to the Park should expect the newborn to be held by her mother constantly, making it difficult to see the baby in the arms of her 229-pound, protective, mom.
This is the second baby for mother Kokomo and father Winston, at the Safari Park. Winston doesn’t have a direct role in caring for the baby at this point, but he will continue to be protective of the rest of the troop of eight Gorillas, which consists of: one adult male, three adult females, 5-year-old Monroe, 8-year-old Frank and 2-year-old Joanne.
The Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is one of two subspecies of the Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) that lives in montane, primary and secondary forests and lowland swamps in central Africa in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It is the Gorilla most common to zoos.
The main diet of the Gorilla species is roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark and pulp, which are provided for in the thick forests of central and West Africa. An adult will eat around 18 kg (40 lb) of food per day. Gorillas will climb trees up to 15 meters in height in search of food.
Females do not produce many offspring, due to the fact that they do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 8 or 9. Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny (weighing about four pounds) and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. The infant will ride on mother’s back from the age of four months through the first two or three years of life. Infants can be dependent on the mother for up to five years.
The Western Lowland Gorilla is classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Population in the wild is faced with a number of factors that threaten it to extinction. Such factors include: deforestation, farming, grazing, and the expanding human settlements that cause forest loss. There is also said to be a correlation between human intervention in the wild and the destruction of habitats with an increase in bushmeat hunting.