Lulu, a 19-year-old Western Lowland Gorilla at Zoo Atlanta, gave birth to an infant on July 24. The newborn is Lulu’s second surviving offspring and the eleventh for 30-year-old silverback, Taz.
“Every animal birth is important, and there is an added cause for celebration when the birth is a critically endangered species like the Western Lowland Gorilla,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Deputy Director. “We look forward to sharing the joy of watching another infant grow up in Taz’s family group in ‘The Ford African Rain Forest’, where our visitors can observe the maternal care, sibling interactions and family dynamics that make watching a troop of gorillas such a special experience.”
Every birth is crucial for Western Lowland Gorillas. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over a 25-year period, the combined threats of poaching, illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade, habitat loss and emerging diseases such as Ebola have reduced their numbers by 60 percent in the wild, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa. Populations living within North American zoos are overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse gorilla population for future generations, and in which Zoo Atlanta is an active partner.
Lulu is the youngest of the five offspring of the late Willie B. Her newborn is the 24th gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest in 1988. In the more than 50 years since the arrival of the infant’s famous grandfather in 1961, the Zoo Atlanta gorilla program has evolved into a nationally recognized center of excellence in the care and study of gorillas.
Zoo Atlanta has been a significant conservation partner of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International for over 20 years, providing headquarters space, information technology and financial support for the organization. Over the years, the Zoo has also provided the Fossey Fund with board leadership and program support, as well as shared scientific team members.
Research by Zoo Atlanta team members has influenced industry-wide improvements in the care of gorillas in zoos, as well as enhanced the world’s understanding of gorillas, with more than 100 published papers on maternal care, reproduction, social behavior and cognition. Zoo Atlanta is the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first effort to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos. The Zoo is a Platinum Supporter of the AZA Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), a collective effort to preserve wild ape populations and to increase and sustain financial support from zoos for their conservation.
Zoo Atlanta houses one of the largest populations of gorillas in North America and is home to 19 individuals. The Zoo is also home to two of the world’s oldest gorillas: female Choomba, 56, and Ozzie, the world’s oldest living male gorilla at 58 – and as such has become a leader in the emerging field of geriatric gorilla care. Gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of 40.
Plan a visit or learn more about the gorillas of Zoo Atlanta at www.zooatlanta.org .