Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo has a new baby - a healthy, Western Lowland Gorilla, the first to be born at the Zoo since 2005. The baby has yet to be named. First time mom, Bana, is a 16-year-old. Dad Kwan, a 22-year-old silverback, seems proud of his new offspring and has stayed protectively close to mother and baby. Born on November 19, the baby joins a troop of 7 at the Zoo. The other gorillas are "respectfully curious" according to Curator of Primates, Maureen Leahy.
“Bana has taken very well to motherhood,” said Leahy. “She is showing all of the signs of a doting new mom and is appropriately tender toward and watchful over her infant. The baby is gripping tightly to Bana and making great eye contact with her during this crucial bonding time.”
Keepers are watching closely to make sure Bana and her baby continue to do well, as the first few weeks are critical in the survival of newborn Gorillas.
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Prior to giving birth, all first-time gorilla moms at Lincoln Park Zoo are given special “maternal training,” which includes getting the mother-to-be comfortable with presenting different body parts which allow for staff to get a better view of nursing. This allows for non-invasive health checks for her and her baby. This operant conditioning allows keepers to offer medical care for both gorillas in case of any unforeseen problems, without ever having to separate mother and infant. All operant conditioning programs are voluntary for animals; similar training can be seen daily at Regenstein Center for African Apes at 1:30 p.m.
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in their native central Africa due to habitat loss and poaching. Lincoln Park Zoo works with other accredited zoos in maintaining a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the great apes. This baby joins approximately 340 other gorillas in the SSP.
This is the 49th gorilla birth since 1970 at Lincoln Park Zoo. Western lowland gorillas have been an important part of the zoo since 1935 when a young male named Bushman arrived in Chicago. Though only 2 ½ when he left his home in Cameroon, Bushman became a 500-pound sensation, drawing visitors to Lincoln Park Zoo from around the globe.
Lincoln Park Zoo’s great apes program is one of the best in the world. The state-of-the-art Regenstein Center for African Apes is internationally-recognized for its enriching exhibit design, while scientists at the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes lead their field with research in behavioral studies and disease monitoring.
Guests can see Bana and her baby at Regenstein Center for African Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo starting Tuesday, Nov. 22 from 10 am – 4:30 pm daily.