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orilla born at Brookfield Zoo

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 11:32 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided)
A Brookfield Zoo Lowland gorilla, Koola, holds her new baby tight.

BROOKFIELD – A female gorilla was born at Brookfield Zoo on Nov. 4 and will be available for visitors to observe as she clings to her mother, Koola, as part of the nursing process.

A newborn gorilla weighs between 4 and 5 pounds at birth and develops thicker hair and a white tail-like tuft as she develops. The infant currently has a strong grip on her mother’s abdomen. At 3- months, she will begin to ride Koola’s back and will soon after start sampling pieces of food. At 4-months, she will start to explore on her own but will stay within arm’s reach of Koola, who will nurse the infant until 3 or 4. 

The young western lowland gorilla joins the zoo’s gorilla group, which includes Koola, 18, the baby’s mother; JoJo, 33, the father; Kamba, 9, Koola’s daughter; and Binti, 25, Koola’s mother. 

JoJo came to the zoo from Lincoln Park Zoo in May 2012 as part of a species survival plan. Western lowland gorillas are endangered because of habitat destruction from logging, disease, the illegal pet trade and poaching for bushmeat. It’s unknown exactly how many western lowland gorillas have survived in their native West Africa, though recent estimates say only between 90,000 and 110,000 remain. 

JoJo, one of 342 western lowland gorillas in North American zoos, is one of the most genetically valuable males in the zoo population, according to the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan.

“We are extremely pleased that JoJo has successfully assumed the role as the silverback or leader of Brookfield Zoo’s gorilla group and has made a positive impact since his arrival,” said Stuart Strahl, president of the Chicago Zoological Society.” This infant represents an important contribution to the gorilla population in North American zoos.”

Reptile House renovation

The zoo’s Reptile House is being renovated to create the new Mary Ann MacLean Conservation Leadership Center, where zoo staff will conduct educational programs for visitors.

The house was built as part of the Great Depression-era Works Progress Administration and completed in 1934, when Brookfield Zoo opened. Much of the building’s interior and exterior have remained intact, but the design became outdated and lacked energy-saving technology. 

“From the very beginning of this project, it was important to maintain the beloved Reptile House building as a Brookfield Zoo landmark,” Strahl said. “We wanted to enhance the building’s energy efficiency while respecting the classic architecture.”

The $5.5 million, 11,000-square-foot facility will feature nature gardens of native plants, a rain garden and an outdoor teaching area. Up to 50 zoo staff will be able to use the space for their daily work, and up to 150 visitors will have access to educational experiences in the center. 

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