Baby Gorilla - Frequently Asked Questions

06/06/2017

When was the infant born?

The baby was born to 17-year-old mother Kira and 32-year-old father Motuba on Friday, June 2nd.
 
On Thursday, June 1st keeper staff noticed signs of Kira’s labor, but as of Friday morning she still had not delivered. She appeared to tire and behaved as if she were feeling worse over the course of the morning and there were no signs of the labor progressing. Typically, gorilla labor is quick and the mother does not appear distressed or behave as if feeling poorly. Concerned about the health of both Kira and her baby,  the Philadelphia Zoo’s veterinary team, who oversee all aspects of medical care for the animals at Philadelphia Zoo, contacted a pre-determined team of consultants who were prepared to assist if there were any problems with the pregnancy or delivery. The team of professionals, from the veterinary and human medical field, includes an ob-gyn, surgeons, anesthesiologists and others, and came from leading area institutions such as University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Penn Medicine, Presbyterian Hospital and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. A similar team was in place for Honi’s pregnancy, but the emergency response was not needed.
 
Once onsite, the doctors examined Kira after she had been placed under anesthesia and determined that she was fully dilated and that the baby was in position for a vaginal delivery.
 
Kira was transported to the Zoo’s veterinary hospital for further examination and to attempt an assisted vaginal delivery. After 1.5 hours the team delivered a healthy 5lb baby boy (with the help of forceps). Because mom Kira was recovering from anesthesia, vet staff provided the newborn with continuous care, cuddling and feeding him Thursday night. By the next morning, Kira was fully recovered from anesthesia and was quickly reunited with her new baby and has been cradling and feeding him since.  

Medial staff that assisted in the delivery include:

Rebekah McCurdy, MD
OB-GYN
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Sean Harbison, MD FACS
Surgeon
Penn Medicine/Presbyterian

Reilly Hobbs, MD
Chief Surgical Resident
Penn Medicine

Ludovica Chiavaccini, DVM MSCS, DACVAA
Anesthesiologist
Penn Vet

Ciara Barr, VMD
Anesthesia Resident
Penn Vet

Keisha Dodman MD
Anesthesia Resident
Penn Medicine

Boy or girl?

The newborn is a boy!

What is the baby’s name?

Gorilla babies rely entirely on their mother for continuous care during the first months of life, so Kira is in almost constant contact with the baby cradling, cuddling and carrying her 24 hours a day. Dad, Motuba, is sticking close by to guard and protect the family, a role that male gorillas typically play in the group dynamic. The Zoo plans to work once again with the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center to choose a name for the infant. 

How much does a baby gorilla weigh?

The infant is weighing in at a healthy 5lbs, 0 oz, which is about average for a newborn male gorilla.

What will the baby gorilla eat?

The baby will nurse from Kira exclusively for the first 5 or 6 months, then will begin to eat solids.  He will continue to nurse for at least 3-4 years. 

Is this Kira and Motuba’s first offspring?

Yes this is Kira’s first birth and the third offspring for Motuba. Although this is the first baby for Kira, Philadelphia Zoo's primate staff believes she was well-prepared to be a first-time mother. Kira was an excellent older sister and care-giver for her younger siblings before her arrival in Philadelphia. She has also benefited from observing Honi throughout her pregnancy, delivery and continued nurturing of baby Amani.

 How long will the baby stay with mom?

From the time they're about 4 months to 2 or 3 years old, young gorillas ride on their mothers' back as a form of transportation.  At around 7 to 10 years, the young gorilla will become mature enough to leave its mother. In the wild, many gorillas leave the group they were born in at around this age.

Who is the father of the baby and what will his role be in raising the baby?

The baby was sired by the gorilla troop's silverback, 32-year-old Motuba, who has one other offspring at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo born in 2003 - her name is Bambio and baby Amani, sired with Honi here at Philadelphia Zoo.  Male gorillas don’t have a direct role in caring for newborns, although they are the group protectors. As the baby gets older, Motuba may interact more with the baby and even play. Each gorilla is an individual and has their own characteristics, so we’ll learn how Motuba behaves as a father as the baby gets older.

What other gorilla’s live at the Zoo?

Philadelphia Zoo has five western lowland gorillas in addition to 17-year-old Kira including: 32-year-old Motuba, 22-year-old Honi, 9-month –old Amani, 18-year-old Louis and 14-year-old  Kuchimba, This baby is a half-brother to baby Amani and will be among the first generation of animals to grow up and explore through Zoo360, the Zoo’s first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration system.

Will the baby and mom Kira continue to live with Motuba, Honi and Amani?

Yes. The family will continue to live together, as they would in the wild, unless behavior or health issues indicate we need to separate Kira and the newborn from any of the other gorillas in the group.

Will the baby remain at Philadelphia Zoo?

The baby will most likely remain with Kira and the troop at Philadelphia Zoo until he or she becomes mature. After that, he or she may stay here or may move to another zoo as part of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) program. (The SSP helps to make sure that the gorilla population in zoos remains genetically and demographically healthy.). In the wild, many gorillas leave the group they were born in by the time they are ten or so, with females joining other groups and males sometimes living alone or with other males until they can form a group of their own.

Will the other gorilla’s living at the Zoo have the opportunity to breed?

Philadelphia Zoo works with the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program to cooperatively manage species population within accredited zoos and aquariums. These recommendations are intended to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically stable AZA population. Although matches are made primarily on the basis of genetics, with certain animals like great apes, other factors come into play including social structure and personality.  Currently these are no additional breeding recommendations for the troop.

What is the status of gorillas in the wild?

Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered in the wild by the Internationals Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary threats impacting wild western lowland gorillas are commercial hunting and diseases, particularly Ebola virus. Long-term, climate change may increase in threat to the gorillas due to drying trends and impact on their habitat. 

What is the significance of this gorilla birth since they are critically endangered?

The Zoo is uniquely placed to connect people with these endangered animals and build an understanding of what they are facing in the wild. The Zoo empowers guests to make choices that can have a positive impact on their survival.

What can I do to help save gorillas?

Gorillas are losing their forest homes to palm oil and timber plantations as global demand for palm oil and paper continues to rise. You can help protect habitat for gorillas by stopping your junk mail, and by thanking manufacturers leading the way toward using palm oil that’s deforestation-free. Guests can visit philadelphiazoo.org/unless-project to learn more about how to become a great ape hero and join the Zoo in working to save these majestic animals.