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Lincoln Park baby gorilla dies

The new female gorilla baby is held by her mom, 16-year-old Bana, Monday, November 21, 2011, at Lincoln Park Zoo. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

A baby western lowland gorilla born nine days ago at the Lincoln Park Zoo has died from head trauma and a skull fracture.

Zoo staff discovered the baby girl’s mother, Bana, carrying the dead infant Friday morning when they arrived to work. “We have been watching the mother and infant very closely since the birth and felt cautiously optimistic that the baby was healthy and being cared for appropriately,” said Megan Ross, vice president of Animal Care, in a statement released by the zoo. “We are all surprised and very saddened by this tragic turn of events.”

Staff allowed Bana to hold the baby for several hours “in order to make peace with what happened,” according to the statement.

In 2010, Bana was transferred from Brookfield Zoo to Lincoln Park Zoo to mate with Kwan, a 22-year-old silverback gorilla. The match was successful with Bana giving birth to the girl, who had yet to be named. Bana was a first-time mom when she gave birth to the baby on Nov. 16.

Last week, zoo staff were celebrating the birth, the first since the baby’s half-brother Amare was born at the zoo in 2005. Maureen Leahy, the zoo’s curator of primates, said Bana had adjusted well to nursing and carrying the baby, and had praised the newborn’s tight grip as a sign of good health. Zoo staff performed a necropsy on Friday and released the cause of death as head trauma and a skull fracture but said there were no obvious signs the injury was caused by aggression.

Western lowland gorillas are an endangered species. The infant was the 49th gorilla born at Lincoln Park Zoo.