Calgary

Calgary Zoo western lowland gorilla expecting first baby

Yewande, a 12-year-old western lowland gorilla, is expecting her first baby, the Calgary Zoo announced Monday.

12-year-old Yewande due to give birth in May

The Calgary zoo is minimizing the chance of a human-to-primate transmission with enhanced safety protocols. (Calgary Zoo)

The Calgary Zoo's Yewande, a western lowland gorilla, is expecting her first baby.

The 12-year-old is due to give birth in early May, the zoo said in a release Monday. 

"We are cautiously optimistic as this is Yewande's first baby," said Jamie Dorgan, director of animal care. 

"This marks the first gorilla baby in the troop since Kimani's birth in 2016," Dorgan said, noting it will also be the first offspring for Jasiri, the zoo's new male silverback.

Jasiri, a 21-year-old who came from the Atlanta Zoo, was moved in with the zoo's band of female western lowland gorillas last year.

An ultrasound image shows that Yewande is expecting a baby. (Calgary Zoo)

Dorgan said there will be many challenges along the way, including navigating troop family dynamics. 

"First time moms we are always very cautious, you know there is no guarantee," he said. " So we are optimistic that things will go well, But we will be prepared for any kind of eventuality in case things don't go quite the way we'd like them to."
The zoo's animal care team will intervene only if the baby's health is in jeopardy.

"This birth represents important gene diversity within the international Species Survival Program (SSP), which helps to maintain a genetically robust population of gorillas as an assurance population for the wild," the zoo said.

If all goes well, the baby gorilla will be ready for public display in June or July.

Western lowland gorillas are a critically endangered species. 

Wild gorilla populations have decreased by 80 per cent over the past 30 years due to poaching and habitat destruction, including mining for the mineral coltan, which is used in cellphone production, the zoo said. 

Lowland gorillas are found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Angola. 

Members of the species can be distinguished from other gorillas by their smaller size, shorter hair, wider skull, brown-grey coats and auburn chests.

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