Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens welcomes critically endangered gorilla infant

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A male western lowland gorilla was born at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens early Friday morning. This is the fifth gorilla born at the zoo, and the first since 2018.

The male was born to mother Madini and father Lash. This is the third viable offspring for 44-year-old Lash and the second for 24-year-old Madini. Her daughter, Patty, still resides at the zoo and will be six years old on May 9.

Madini and Lash were recommended to breed by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP). This group of zoo professionals cooperatively manages the gorilla population at zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). They are responsible for making science-based breeding and transfer recommendations as well as providing support and guidance on all aspects of gorilla management at AZA institutions to maintain a healthy, diverse and sustainable safety-net population to enhance conservation of this species in the wild.

Madini was born in 1996 to mother Bulera, and they both were transferred to Jacksonville in November 2006. Lash was born on Christmas Day in 1976, and he moved to Jacksonville in 1998. He lived in a bachelor group with Rumpel for eight years before being introduced to Madini and Bulera.

This infant is now the ninth member of the largest gorilla group in the zoo’s history. This includes the last infant to be born, two-year-old Gandai, who was reared by keepers after her deaf birth mother, Kumbuka, could not properly care for her.

After five months of bottle-feeding and teaching her how to be a gorilla, keepers introduced her to a surrogate mother, Bulera. Since then, the mother and daughter have been slowly reintroduced to surrogate father, Rumpel; surrogate brother, George; surrogate sister, Madini; Madini's daughter, Patty; and ultimately her biological mother, Kumbuka, and biological father, Lash.

“We have many reasons to celebrate this new infant,” said Tracy Fenn, assistant curator of mammals. “He will further enrich the social environment and experience of his amazing group and strengthen the sustainability of the Gorilla SSP. Although raising Gandai was an incredibly rewarding experience, the gorilla care staff is elated to see this infant thriving in the care of his own mother.”

Western lowland gorillas are the most widespread of the gorilla subspecies inhabiting forests and swampland of central Africa, however the subspecies is critically endangered due to deforestation, poaching and introduced diseases.

Mature male gorillas, or “silverbacks,” are much larger than females. Infants usually weigh around four pounds at birth and are dependent on their mothers for up to five years.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will be raising awareness of species like the western lowland gorilla at Party for the Planet on Saturday, April 24. This event is presented by The Wild Things, a young professional group at the zoo, and is a celebration of Earth Day, Endangered Species Day and World Oceans Day. Guests are encouraged to donate old cell phones to help save gorilla species in the wild. For further information, go to JacksonvilleZoo.org/PartyForThePlanet.

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