Visitors to the Brookfield Zoo can now experience the rare sight of a mother gorilla caring for her newborn baby.
The Chicago Zoological Society, which runs the suburban zoo, confirmed the birth of a newborn western lowland gorilla to 23-year-old Koola on June 1.
The sex of the baby is currently unknown, as zookeepers take a hands-off approach toward young primates and refrain from interfering with the mother gorilla too soon after childbirth, according to Senior Curator of Mammals Amy Roberts.
“The gorillas know what they’re doing, and we don’t really have to intervene at all,” Roberts said.
The only gorillas that have handled the newborn have been Koola and the baby’s older sister, 4-year-old Nora.
The baby has yet to be named, and the zoo isn’t sure yet how it will choose its name. In the past, the zoo has held naming contests or accepted name suggestions from donors.
A newborn gorilla isn’t an everyday occurrence for the zoo. The last birth at Brookfield was now-2-year-old Zachary, born in 2015, and Nora before that in 2013, according to Roberts.
“Now that we’ve got three young ones out there … that are able to wrestle and play with each other, it’s going to be absolutely fantastic,” Roberts said.
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Roberts said a few zoogoers were lucky enough to be present at the habitat the day of the birth to witness it.
Visitors can see the newborn at the zoo’s “Tropic World: Africa” exhibit. After about three months, the baby will begin riding on Koola’s back.
The infant’s father is a 35-year-old gorilla named JoJo, who was brought over from the Lincoln Park Zoo in 2012 as part of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan, which promotes healthy breeding and population management for species.
Western lowland gorillas are considered a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Causes for their endangerment include habitat destruction and degradation, diseases such as Ebola and commercial hunting.
There are currently about 350 western lowland gorillas in captivity in North American accredited zoos and around 200,000 living in their native West Africa.