Attempts to introduce a first-time mother Gorilla to her new baby continue every day at Woodland Park Zoo, in Seattle, Washington. For the next three months, the Zoo will keep providing hands-on care for the newborn female Gorilla before evaluating next steps.
The unnamed baby Western Lowland Gorilla was born November 20 to 19-year-old Nadiri
(NAW-duh-ree). After giving birth naturally, Nadiri did not pick up her baby and, instead, walked away. Staff immediately stepped in for the safety and welfare of the baby and to allow the new mom to rest.
Because Nadiri does not have experience with motherhood, the Zoo prepared for different eventualities while Nadiri was pregnant, including human intervention.
The Woodland Park Zoo’s Gorilla and veterinary staff are providing 24/7 care for the baby, behind the scenes, in the Gorillas’ sleeping quarters in a den next to Nadiri. Here, the mom and the other two members in her group can see the baby; and the baby is immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of Gorillas.
“The baby is strong and healthy, and has a hearty appetite,” said Harmony Frazier, Woodland Park Zoo’s senior veterinary technician and an animal infant specialist. “We bottle feed her human infant formula on demand so she’s eating every couple of hours. She’s steadily gaining weight and currently weighs 5.8 pounds, a healthy weight for a 2-week-old Gorilla [as of December 3],” said Frazier.
“The best outcome for the baby Gorilla is to have her mom raise her, so, several times a day Nadiri is given access to her baby,” said Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo’s mammal curator. “Nadiri consistently enters the den for each introduction session. While she still hasn’t picked up her baby, she remains next to her. When the baby cries, she sometimes touches her in a calming manner. When Nadiri is in her own den, she watches her baby and grunts contentedly,” explained Ramirez. “It isn’t strong maternal behavior yet, but we’re encouraged by these positive sessions and gestures of interest.”
The zoo closely monitors and evaluates each introduction session. “As long as the sessions remain positive, we’ll keep moving forward with providing opportunities for Nadiri and her baby to bond. If Nadiri shows any inappropriate behaviors, we will discontinue the sessions and assess other options,” added Ramirez.
After the holidays, the Zoo has plans to name the baby Gorilla.