Philadelphia Zoo is pleased to announce that Honi, a 21-year-old western lowland gorilla, is pregnant -- the baby is expected in early fall. Honi’s pregnancy was confirmed through an over-the-counter home pregnancy test, the same test used by humans. The baby's sire is 31-year-old silverback, Motuba.
Through well-established training programs at the Zoo, the staff also successfully obtained ultrasound images of the baby. Honi actively cooperated with the veterinary staff, holding her belly up to a mesh panel while zookeepers and vets on the other side conducted the ultrasound examination through an opening in the mesh.
“Honi is doing great so far but, as with any pregnancy, we are carefully monitoring her health. Although this is early in the pregnancy, by using ultrasound imaging, we are able to see that the baby has a normal heartbeat, which is a very good sign,” said Dr. Keith Hinshaw, Director of Animal Health. "The staff has done an incredible job preparing Honi to participate in her own health care management,” said Hinshaw.
Training through positive reinforcement and operant conditioning allows animals to voluntarily participate in activities that challenge them to think and learn new things. Animals are trained in husbandry and medical behaviors that assist the zookeepers and hospital staff in their care.
“We’re thrilled to share this wonderful news with everyone. Honi is an experienced mother and we expect she will do a great job once again. It is exciting that our visitors will have the unique opportunity to see this baby born, grow up and become part of this amazing troop of majestic great apes,” said Dr. Andy Baker, Zoo Chief Operating Officer.
Philadelphia Zoo has five western lowland gorillas: 31-year-old Motuba, 21-year-old Honi, almost 17-year-old Louis, 16-year-old Kira and 13-year-old Kuchimba (who is also Honi’s son). The baby will be among the first generation of animals to grow up and explore through Zoo360, the Zoo’s a first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration system.
Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to expansion of agriculture, logging and deforestation. The Philadelphia Zoo empowers Zoo guests to recycle and reduce the use of paper and thank manufacturers that use sustainable, deforestation-free palm oil.