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Kiki, a western lowland gorilla, gives birth to her fourth baby

GorillaandbabyThe staff at Franklin Park Zoo is thrilled to announce that Kiki, a western lowland gorilla, gave birth on Thursday morning inside the Tropical Forest building.

“The baby appears strong, healthy and alert. All of these are very good signs and we will continue to closely monitor Kiki and the baby while they’re on exhibit,” said Jeannine Jackle, Assistant Curator of the Tropical Forest at Franklin Park Zoo and member of the AZA Gorilla SSP Management Committee who added, “We plan to keep the routine as normal as possible for all of the gorillas. Following the birth, Kiki appeared very calm and relaxed and has been doing everything a gorilla mother should.”

The baby made its exhibit debut on Friday, May 15 and is expected to be on exhibit daily.

This is Kiki’s fourth baby with her mate Kitombe, or Kit as he is affectionately called. Kiki, one of seven western lowland gorillas at Franklin Park Zoo, resides in the Tropical Forest Pavilion with daughters Kimani, age 10, and Kambiri, age 4. With the goal of starting another gorilla family, her oldest daughter Kira moved to her new home at the Philadelphia Zoo two years ago.

The baby was born at approximately 10:00 a.m. and the gender is not yet known. Gorilla babies typically weigh between 4 and 5 pounds.

Gorillaandbaby2The Tropical Forest staff noticed Kiki exhibiting signs of labor shortly before 9:30 a.m. and watched the birthing process. Kambiri & Kimani were alongside their mom during the birth and watched the process with much interest and curiosity.

A gorilla’s typical gestation period is eight and a half months and, therefore, it was predicted that Kiki would give birth in May. Kiki’s pregnancy was confirmed through an over-the-counter home pregnancy test, the same tests that humans use.

Throughout Kiki’s pregnancy, the animal management and veterinary staffs were able to closely monitor the baby’s development via ultrasound images. These images were obtained with Kiki’s active participation and cooperation – she held her belly up to the mesh while zookeepers and vets conducted the ultrasound examinations. This process was the result of well-established training programs, which make use of positive reinforcement and operant conditioning, allows animals to voluntarily participate in activities that challenge them to think and learn new things in exchange for a favorite treat.

Zoo New England, known for its leadership in gorilla husbandry, management and care, is an active participant in the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). SSPs are designed to maintain genetically diverse and demographically stable captive populations of species. Kiki’s pregnancy is the result of a recommended breeding by the SSP.

“It’s an incredibly special opportunity and we hope people will visit us throughout the coming months and years to watch the baby grow and develop,” said John Linehan, President and CEO of Zoo New England. “Today’s announcement is especially meaningful given that this morning AZA publicly announced a bold new initiative S.A.F. E, Saving Animals From Extinction. Facing serious threats in the wild, the western lowland gorillas have been selected as one of 10 inaugural species for this joint initiative.”

The launch coincides with the 10th annual Endangered Species Day on May 16, in which Zoo New England is a proud participant.

Western lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered in the wild. Western gorillas, found in the countries of Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Angola, and Central African Republic, are divided into the Cross River and western lowland subspecies. Both are considered critically endangered. Threats to gorillas vary geographically and western gorillas are primarily threatened by disease and the bushmeat trade.

Learn more about Western lowland gorillas in Franklin Park Zoo's Animals Section.

Please note: Photos of the baby are not yet available. Zoo staff cannot guarantee that Kiki and the baby will be on exhibit as it depends on their needs. Details on a naming contest will also be announced soon.

Photos courtesy of Erica Farrell (top) and Elizabeth Stefan