CBC Digital Archives

New baby gorilla at Toronto Zoo

Fascinating to scientists and zoo visitors alike, gorillas are the gentle giants of the animal world. Year by year, gorillas in the wild are losing habitat to advancing human settlement, prompting conservation groups and UN agencies to name 2009 the Year of the Gorilla. From a 1963 interview with a hunter who captures gorillas for zoos to a radio snapshot of wild gorillas in 2009, the CBC Digital Archives looks at these hairy, human-like creatures.

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It wears diapers, eats Pablum and drinks from a bottle. But this three-month-old baby is a lot hairier than most, and nobody's sure if it's male or female. In November 1980, two gorillas at the Toronto Zoo - Samantha and Josephine - gave birth. But, as is not uncommon for zoo gorillas, Samantha rejected her baby, leaving it wholly dependent on zoo staff. In this CBC-TV clip, a zoo veterinarian describes how the gorilla baby has managed to survive and thrive.
• The baby gorillas seen in this clip were the first live gorilla births in Canada. Samantha abandoned her baby, which was eventually determined to be female, within 20 days. Zookeepers named her Natasha. • The zoo wasn't sure which of its two male gorillas - Charles or Barney - sired the babies.

• In July 1981 Josephine's baby, nine-month-old Tabitha, required surgery to remove an abscess from her brain. Medical staff from Toronto's Sick Children's Hospital performed the surgery. However, the surgery left Tabitha partly paralysed and she could not be returned to her mother.

• Zookeepers raised Natasha and Tabitha in an enclosure adjacent to the adult gorillas' pen, and both were eventually strong enough to be reintegrated with the larger group. At age four both were loaned to the Calgary Zoo as part of a breeding program.

• The Toronto Zoo first acquired gorillas when it opened in Scarborough in 1974. Its seven gorillas were all about two years old when they joined the zoo.

• After suffering a serious stroke in 2010, Samantha was euthanized at age 37. She had five babies in all, two of which were still at the Toronto zoo when she died.

Medium: Television
Program: This Week in Ontario
Broadcast Date: Feb. 25, 1981
Guest(s): William Rapley
Reporter: Steven Levinson
Duration: 4:48

Last updated: February 9, 2012

Page consulted on July 18, 2014

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