Powell, OH – A gorilla was born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on May 23, 2013 at 3:22 a.m. The baby boy weighs 5 pounds, a healthy weight for a newborn gorilla.
This is the first offspring for mother, Kambera (kam-bear-uh), and she has displayed a lack of maternal skills. At this time Columbus Zoo animal care experts are raising him in an environment that provides around-the-clock neonatal care and nurturing. They spend a significant amount of time close to Kambera with the hope of being able to reunite the baby with her in the near future. It is unknown when Zoo visitors will be able to see the baby.
Kambera was born by caesarean section in Feb. 1999 at the Columbus Zoo; it was one of the first successful gorilla caesarean section procedures ever performed. Kambera, whose mother was unable to care for her after the operation, was raised by Zoo staff until she was about 5 months of age before being cared for by a surrogate gorilla mother.
This is also the first offspring for 24-year-old Oliver. Oliver, who is deaf and is believed to have lost his hearing at a very young age, came to the Columbus Zoo in Sep. 2009. His socialization into a group of gorillas at the Columbus Zoo marked the first time he has been with other gorillas since he was 6 years of age.
“The birth of a gorilla baby, actually any baby, is always a momentous event,” said Tom Stalf, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “But what really touches our hearts is that Oliver, who came here after living by himself for so many years, has produced a beautiful baby boy.”
If efforts to reunite the baby with his mother are unsuccessful, the animal care team will work towards introducing the baby to a surrogate gorilla mother over the next several months. There are several female gorillas at the Columbus Zoo that could act as a surrogate mother and observations of their interest in the baby will determine the best fit.
The Columbus Zoo 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 and the team has provided surrogacy training to zoos around the world. Nine Columbus Zoo gorillas have been raised in the surrogacy program and an additional five have been sent from other zoos.
The pairing of Kambera and Oliver was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for lowland gorillas. The AZA, of which the Columbus Zoo is an accredited member, strives to maintain a sustainable population of the endangered great apes in North America. There are now 16 gorillas at the Columbus Zoo and approximately 350 gorillas in North American zoos. There have been 31 gorillas born at the Columbus Zoo including the birth of Colo in Dec. 1956. Colo was the first gorilla born in human care and she holds the record for longevity.
There are approximately 120,000 western lowland gorillas left in the wild. The numbers of wild gorillas are declining due to poaching, habitat destruction, and diseases like Ebola. The Columbus Zoo supports several great ape projects including the Mbeli Bai Study of western lowland gorillas based in the Republic of Congo, the Cross River Gorilla Project in Cameroon and Nigeria, and the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project in Central Africa. The Zoo is a long-term supporter of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), and in 2010, joined the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Ape Taxon Advisory Group Initiative as a platinum member. 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). Each year the Columbus Zoo contributes $1 million of privately raised funds to more than 70 conservation projects in 30 countries.
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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; contributing more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.