The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has welcomed yet another zoo baby this summer. Asha, an 11 year old western lowland gorilla, gave birth to her first baby on Monday morning, August 4th, around 8:00. Officials say the baby is healthy and weighed in at right about 5 pounds. Asha has been so protective of her baby, holding it very close during feeding and cleaning times that zoo officials have not yet been able to determine the sex of the new baby. "Because Asha is being such a good mom, holding this little one close, nursing, and gently cleaning the baby, we have not yet been able to determine the sex," said Zoo Executive Director Thane Maynard. "The baby appears very healthy, strong, and active and we could not be more pleased with how Asha is handling her new role as mom." If bonding goes well, and it seems to be, officials say the pair will be outside again soon, weather permitting.
The zoo now has a total of nine western lowland gorillas, including the baby’s father, a silverback gorilla named Jomo, and the rest of his family; Samantha, M'Linzi, Anju, and Gladys. This is Jomo’s second baby and is the 49th baby gorilla born at the Cincinnati Zoo. His first child was a young male gorilla, named Bakari, who was born on August 13, 2006. The western lowland gorilla is an endangered species in the wild. There are 765 gorillas located in zoos around the world and officials estimate there are only about 175,000 left in the wild due to habitat destruction and illegal poaching. "Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink," according to a release from the zoo. "The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year."
"I am a lucky guy. I have had the very rare privilege to work with the gorillas at the Cincinnati zoo for almost 30 years and have been present for many great events, including dozens of births," said Ron Evans, Curator of Primates at the Cincinnati Zoo. "However, this baby is very special as it marks the rebirth of the Cincinnati Zoo's gorilla propagation program after an eight year intentional hiatus."