Powell, OH – The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will soon be home to a baby gorilla born at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky. Female gorilla, Misha (MEE-sha) was born at the Louisville Zoo on February 6. On April 1, there was a skirmish in her family group consisting of her mother, father and another adult female that resulted in Misha losing part of her left leg and breaking a bone near her left hip.
After consulting with the nation’s leading gorilla experts, it has been decided that Misha will be relocated to the Columbus Zoo to be paired with an adult female gorilla that will be a surrogate mother to the infant. The program includes providing 24/7 care by the Columbus Zoo’s hand rearing team and raising the infant next to other gorillas until she is introduced to her new gorilla mom.
“When babies are brought into our surrogacy program all of the other gorillas show a great deal of interest in the newcomer” Living Collection Director Dusty Lombardi said. “In addition to determining the surrogate mother it is equally important for the infant to be introduced into an age and sex diversified group that includes several aunts and a silverback male.”
The gorilla program at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is internationally recognized for caring for gorillas in social groups including the placement of young gorillas with surrogate mothers to become integral members of a family group. Eight of Columbus Zoo’s gorillas have been raised in their surrogacy program and an additional five have been sent from other zoos. The Columbus Zoo has several female gorillas that could act as a surrogate mother and observations of their interest in Misha will determine the best fit.
“Our team has been leaders in gorilla surrogacy for more than 25 years” said Columbus Zoo Executive Director Dale Schmidt. “They are uniquely qualified to raise little Misha and help her become a integral member of a gorilla family.”
Louisville Zoo staff members will transport Misha to Columbus. Once there, the Columbus Zoo gorilla surrogacy staff will work to get Misha integrated into her new setting and eventually introduced to her surrogate gorilla mom. It is fully expected that Misha will adapt to her injuries and thrive as a gorilla.
Medically, Misha is making excellent progress. A recent physical examination and radiographs showed the fracture in her leg has healed, and she has recovered from anemia. She is gaining weight and is no longer on any medication. While hand raising Misha was necessary to aid and speed her recovery following her injury, the plan always has been to return her to a gorilla family unit. Unfortunately, mother Mia Moja doesn’t have surrogacy history or training that would provide the best possible care for the infant. Surrogates are taught to not only care for their baby like their own but also to bring the baby over to staff when prompted for bottle feedings, medication and regular check-ups.
There are about 850 gorillas in zoos worldwide including 359 in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. There are currently 15 gorillas at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Habitat loss and deforestation have historically been the primary cause for declining populations of Africa’s great apes, but experts now agree that the illegal commercial bushmeat trade has surpassed habitat loss as the primary threat to ape populations. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium supports numerous conservation projects including the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance and the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration. In 1991 the Columbus Zoo founded Partners in Conservation to conduct conservation and humanitarian programs benefiting both wildlife and people in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.) Over the past five years the Columbus Zoo and Partners in Conservation has distributed more than $3.8 million in conservation grants worldwide.
The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). For more information, visit www.louisvillezoo.org.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. after Labor Day. General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+. Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free. The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.) For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit www.columbuszoo.org.
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