Jacksonville, FL — A 4.8-pound baby Western lowland gorilla has become the latest addition at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
The little one does not yet have a name. The Zoo plans to use the ability to name her as a fundraising opportunity, to raise money for both her care and for wild gorilla conservation.
JZG’s 22-year-old Western lowland gorilla Kumbuka and 42-year-old silverback Lash were paired, with the Zoo saying Kumbuka is the most genetically valuable female in the Gorilla Species Survival Plan. This baby is considered important to the North American program, because wild gorillas are no longer captured for zoos.
Kumbuka lost two previous babies at a different zoo because she improperly carried and cradled them. It’s believed this is because of a hearing disability that may inhibit her from hearing and detecting distress by her babies. Because of that disability- which was diagnosed through consultation with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care in 2017- the Zoo put together a specialized birth management plan to try to improve the chance of maternal success. This included keepers teaching her the right way to position a baby, as well as preparing possible alternate plans.
While Kumbuka initially had normal maternal behavior toward her new daughter, she was again showing signs of improper handling, so the Zoo decided to remove the baby for “short-term assisted rearing” by gorilla staff. This was done because the Zoo believed the baby’s life was in danger, and they say the decision is supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla Species Survival Plan group.
While the baby is not with her mother, JZG says Kumbuka is able to see and smell her, and they are being kept close to one another. Gorilla care staff continue to teach Kumbuka the right way to hold the baby, and when the baby is strong enough to adjust herself- which is expected to be in about four months- the Zoo hopes to reunite the two.
For now, they say the baby is progressing well.
Kumbuka and the other gorillas live in JZG’s newly opened “African Forest” exhibit, which features a 50-foot tall tree that the animals can interact with and a trail system that gives them options for how to experience their home. It’s a mixed-special exhibit, which also includes colobus monkeys and mandrills.