A male western lowland gorilla was born at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens early Friday morning. This is the fifth gorilla born at the Zoo, and the first since 2018.
The male was born to mother Madini and father Lash. This is the third viable offspring for 44-year-old Lash and the second for 24-year-old Madini. Her daughter, Patty, still resides at the Zoo and will be 6 years old on May 9.
Madini and Lash were recommended to breed by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP). This group of zoo professionals cooperatively manages the gorilla population at zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). They are responsible for making science-based breeding and transfer recommendations as well as providing support and guidance on all aspects of gorilla management at AZA institutions to maintain a healthy, diverse, and sustainable safety-net population to enhance conservation of this species in the wild.
Madini was born in 1996 to mother Bulera, and they both were transferred to Jacksonville in November 2006. Lash was born on Christmas Day in 1976, and he moved to Jacksonville in 1998. He lived in a bachelor group with Rumpel for eight years before being introduced to Madini and Bulera.
This infant is now the ninth member of the largest gorilla group in the Zoo’s history. This includes the last infant to be born, 2-year-old Gandai, who was reared by keepers after her deaf birth mother, Kumbuka, could not properly care for her. After five months of bottle feeding and teaching her how to be a gorilla, keepers introduced her to a surrogate mother, Bulera. Since then, the mother and daughter have been slowly reintroduced to surrogate father, Rumpel; surrogate brother, George; surrogate sister, Madini; Madini's daughter, Patty; and ultimately her biological mother, Kumbuka, and biological father, Lash.
“We have many reasons to celebrate this new infant. He will further enrich the social environment and experience of his amazing group and strengthen the sustainability of the Gorilla SSP. Although raising Gandai was an incredibly rewarding experience, the gorilla care staff is elated to see this infant thriving in the care of his own mother,” said Tracy Fenn, Assistant Curator of Mammals.
Western lowland gorillas are the most widespread of the gorilla subspecies inhabiting forests and swampland of central Africa, however the subspecies is critically endangered due to deforestation, poaching, and introduced diseases. Mature male gorillas, or “Silverbacks” are much larger than females. Infants usually weigh around four pounds at birth and are dependent on their mothers for up to five years.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will be raising awareness of species like the western lowland gorilla at Party for the Planet on Saturday, April 24. This event is presented by The Wild Things, a young professional group at the Zoo, and is a celebration of Earth Day, Endangered Species Day, and World Oceans Day. Guests are encouraged to donate old cell phones to help save gorilla species in the wild. Visit JacksonvilleZoo.org/PartyForThePlanet for more info.
About Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
For over 100 years, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has aimed to inspire the discovery and appreciation of wildlife through innovative experiences in a caring environment. Starting in 1914 with an animal collection of one red deer fawn, the Zoo now has more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 species of plants, boasting the largest botanical garden in Northeast Florida. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a nonprofit organization and a portion of every ticket sold goes to the over 45 conservation initiatives Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens supports around the world, and here in NE Florida. JZG is proud to be an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. For more information, visit jacksonvillezoo.org.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is excited about their continued baby boom. They recently announced the birth of four Black and White Ruffed Lemurs on May 19.
This is the third litter for the parents, Hawk and Potter. Their first litter was born at the Jacksonville Zoo in 2015. Keepers were anticipating the birth and had worked with Hawk to allow voluntary sonograms and weight checks.
All four lemur infants are male; a fact that keepers like as this potentially allows the group to stay longer at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Female lemur offspring become incompatible with mom around two-years-old.
Hawk has again proven herself to be a calm and capable mother with excellent instincts. Black and White Ruffed Lemur mothers do not carry their offspring around. Instead, they build a nest and leave the litter there, returning to nurse. The family will be bonding behind-the-scenes for the immediate future while the infants grow.
Four infants is a lot for any mother, and keepers are encouraging Hawk to eat and drink as much as possible and are supplementing her diet with foods items that support lactation. All of the little guys are nursing well and, because Hawk has such a calm disposition and trust in her keepers, she is allowing care staff to obtain regular weights to confirm their development.
Two of Hawk’s and Potter’s older offspring, a male named Pippen and a female named Frodo, are still at the Zoo and can be seen in a different group, often mixed with other lemur species, in the beautiful African Forest exhibit.
Like all lemurs, Black and White Ruffed Lemurs are native only to the island country of Madagascar. They are classified, by the IUCN, as “Critically Endangered” in the wild due to habitat loss from deforestation. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), which helps manage the population in AZA accredited facilities.
“We love seeing animal babies and the joy they bring our guests,” said Zoo Executive Director Tony Vecchio, “but seeing four babies, who are so important to their species, born into our new African Forest exhibit is a great feeling for everyone at the Zoo!”
Keepers were anticipating the birth of the young giraffe, knowing Luna was close to her due date. She was in the birthing suite when she delivered the petite, but healthy, calf at 4:10 a.m. Birth-camera footage shows the calf standing soon after birth, and keepers are pleased to see healthy nursing.
Photo Credits: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
After the birth, veterinary staff preformed a neonatal exam on the young calf, giving him a visual inspection and his first round of vaccinations. The calf is only 5’9” tall and weighs 119 lbs. As a contrast, his half-brother, born last week to mother Naomi, is the tallest giraffe in the JZG herd at 6’4” and 187 lbs!
These two newborn boys will be the last of Duke’s offspring, and they will be the last giraffe births at the Zoo until a new bull giraffe can join the herd. Population management decisions will be made with the help of the Species Survival Plan, expert advisors who work together to maximize genetic diversity and sustainability of the animals in zoos across the globe.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens welcomed an exciting addition to the Reticulated Giraffe herd on May 15. The Zoo’s 42nd giraffe calf was born to mother, Naomi.
Many visitors of Jacksonville Zoo will remember that the patriarch of their giraffe herd, Duke, passed away in December 2018 at 21-years-old from age-related degenerative disease. At the time of his death, keepers were hoping that one or two of the females in the herd were pregnant…and they were! The birth of this youngster is a touching tribute to the high-profile bull that was so well known by the Jacksonville community. This special calf is Duke’s 18th offspring.
“The arrival of our beloved Duke’s son is an especially moving way to honor his amazing legacy. We’re all looking forward to watching this little guy grow and develop,” shared Dan Maloney, Deputy Zoo Director.
Photo Credits: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
On the day of the calf’s birth, keepers monitoring the overnight cameras noticed birth activity around 4:30am, so they rushed to the Zoo to supervise the significant birth and make sure everything progressed smoothly. Zoo staff were also watching when the calf stood up for the first time at 6:20am. Their excitement continued when they saw healthy nursing behavior at 7:11am. According to keepers, Naomi is a calm and experienced mother, with this being her 7th calf.
Veterinary staff examined the calf soon after the birth and determined it to be a boy in good health. He weighed in at 187 lbs. and was nearly 6’4” tall.
Naomi and the calf were allowed to bond behind the scenes after the birth, but they are now on exhibit with the rest of their herd.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has introduced Gondai, a Western Lowland Gorilla infant born on September 28, to a surrogate mother, 30-year old Bulera. While surrogacy was “Plan B” for the Gorilla care team, hoping instead that Gandai’s biological mother Kumbuka would be willing and able to care for the infant, the pairing with Gandai and Bulera is a joyful occasion and the two Gorillas are bonding well.
Photo Credit: Jacksonville Zoo and Garden (1,3), Lynded Nunn (2), John Reed Photography (4,5,6)
Keepers at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens intervened after Gandai’s birth when Kumbuka was observed incorrectly positioning the infant. The team has provided around-the-clock care for five months with the goal of introducing her to the troop as soon as it would be safe to do so. Kumbuka and the rest of the Gorillas were in close contact with the infant throughout the assisted-rearing process to reinforce their bonds. Bulera showed strong interest in Gandai from the beginning.
On the morning of February 26, Gandai was placed on a soft pile of hay in a large family room in the Gorilla building. Kumbuka was given access to the room and allowed to have free contact with the infant. Keepers were cautiously optimistic when Kumbuka eventually approached the little one and showed some interest. Kumbuka was initially curious and was even observed holding the baby for a few minutes. Unfortunately, her interest waned and by the end of the day, Kumbuka was actively avoiding Gandai. She did not bring Gandai into her nest to sleep overnight. When keepers saw Kumbuka’s frustration rising the next morning with every approach from Gandai, they knew it was time to consider Plan B.
At 9am on February 27, Kumbuka was given the opportunity to leave Gandai’s room, which she did without hesitation. Bulera was immediately given access to the baby. Immediately the keepers could tell this was a better fit. She was holding the baby within minutes and comforting her with soft vocal rumbles. She carried her around the enclosure, cuddled with her, brought her into her nest to sleep and responded quickly to any cries. Even better, Gandai is smitten with her adoptive mother.
Bulera is an experienced mother who raised 22-year old Madini and George who recently turned four. She is a confident and relaxed mother with a calm demeanor. The fact that young George is fully weaned, precocious, and enjoys independence, and has a close relationship with his father and playmate Patty, facilitated Bulera being available as a surrogate for Gandai.
The situation is still fluid as keepers continue to monitor the two behind-the-scenes and around the clock. Decisions are being made on who to introduce to Bulera and Gandai in next steps when they indicate they are ready.
Kumbuka is contently spending time with silverback Lash. She is not showing any concern about the situation. Keepers are disappointed that Kumbuka was not interested in mothering Gandai, but glad that the two can continue to live in the same group and develop a relationship. They anticipate that she will ultimately play an aunt role to Gandai, like she has done with the other offspring in the group.
Dedicated Gorilla keepers at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens have spent the last four months preparing baby Gandai for the time she can rejoin her mother, Kumbuka, and the rest of their Western Lowland Gorilla troop.
Kumbuka gave birth to little Gandai on September 28. Although Kumbuka’s initial maternal behavior toward the baby was perfect and normal, keepers noticed the new mother was cradling and carrying her youngster improperly---similarly to the way that she behaved when she lost two previous offspring at another zoo.
It is theorized that Kumbuka’s hearing disability may prevent her from detecting when her youngsters are in distress. The extremely difficult decision was made to remove Kumbuka’s baby for short-term assisted rearing by Gorilla care staff.
Photo Credits: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens/ John Reed Photography
Before the infant can be reintroduced, she needs to achieve specific milestones including walking, taking a bottle through mesh, the ability to hold on when being carried, and various developmental criteria. Keepers are proud to say Gandai has been making great strides in reaching these goals.
Gandai’s keepers have taken turns providing around-the-clock care since the decision was made to remove her from the troop. While assistance-rearing the young Gorilla, keepers have not just cared for Gandai like a mother would, but they have also focused on getting her to a point where she can return to her real mother. Keepers report that it has been both a demanding and rewarding journey.
To get little Gandai strong, and to teach her all the things a Gorilla would need to know to fit in with the Zoo’s troop, the keepers and Gandai went through what is affectionately being called “baby boot camp”.
Zoo staff were initially concerned with Gandai’s gripping ability in her right hand, so strength conditioning was made a priority. Gandai will need to be able to both position herself on Kumbuka when carried and to right herself when being held or sitting.
It is also crucially important that Gandai be able to navigate her habitat by herself. She will need to be able to come when called to take supplemental bottles and feedings. Most parents will relate when the keepers express their excitement, as Gandai is nearly phased-out of overnight bottles. She has been taught to take a bottle through the mesh barrier that separates the troop from keeper staff. Additionally, Gandai has been introduced to soft solid foods and is thoroughly enjoying banana, steamed sweet potatoes and cooked broccoli.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens had the perfect way to celebrate the New Year. An Eastern Bongo calf was born late in the afternoon of December 28.
Nearly 18-year-old, Molly, and 10-year-old, Tambo, are the parents to a healthy baby girl who is already delighting guests in her spacious mixed-species habitat along the African Boardwalk exhibit.
While undeniably cute, the baby is also an exciting addition to the Zoo and the Bongo Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program between accredited zoos. Zoo staff is especially thrilled because Molly is an older mom and her last calf was born over eight years ago.
Photo Credits: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
The Zoo’s newest addition joins her half-sister who was born to Tambo and Sequoia in June of 2018. An SSP breeding recommendation brought adult male Tambo to the Zoo in March of 2017. This is his sixth offspring.
After receiving a neonatal exam from the Animal Health team, the youngster is cleared to be on exhibit with her mother, father, Aunt Sequoia and the other youngster. Sharing the Bongo enclosure are two Yellow-backed Duikers, a smaller mountain species of African Antelope.
Eastern Bongo are native to the mountains and tropical forests of sub-Saharan Africa. Their critically endangered status is due mainly to a loss of habitat because of logging. Bongos are the largest of the forest antelope and both males and females sport thick, curved horns. At the Zoo, guests can tell the male Tambo apart from the females because of his darker coloring and significantly heavier horns.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating a special Christmas present, which came early, with the birth of an Asian Small-clawed Otter pup. The birth is a first for the Zoo, which debuted the species with the opening of the ‘Land of the Tiger’ in 2014.
The tiny new pup was born to first-time parents, Carlisle and Harley, on November 14. The pup was only 3-ounces when born, but it is now a fluffy 18 ounces. A very dear friend and Zoo patron chose to name the little otter “Scotter”.
Photo Credits: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (Image 4: Proud otter parents, Carlisle and Harley)
Asian Small-clawed Otters are the smallest of the 13 otter species. They are slow developers and the little one is just now starting to open its eyes. In fact, they are so slow to develop, staff has yet to determine the pup’s gender.
Asian Small-clawed Otters are also very social animals, with both parents sharing responsibilities raising the pup. Carlisle and Harley have been busy with grooming and nest building for the healthy little one in their behind-the-scenes otter house.
Next up for the increasingly mobile pup will be swimming lessons. The proud parents will introduce the little one to a small tub of shallow water in the night house. Unlike most other otter species, Asian Small-clawed Otters spend much more time on the land but are still agile swimmers.
It will be several weeks before the pup is able to explore the large exhibit that is shared with two Babirusa Pigs, Jeffrey and Ramona. Until then, the Zoo will share milestones like swimming lessons on their social media channels.
Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinerea) are native to Southeast Asia where they are classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN. The species is threatened by habitat loss due to palm oil production.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is pleased to announce that 22-year-old, Western Lowland Gorilla, Kumbuka, gave birth to a healthy infant. The 4.8-pound female was born on September 28th at 1:30 pm.
Labor began in the mixed-species habitat the Gorillas share with Colobus Monkeys and Mandrills, but concluded in the birthing-suite within the Gorilla shelter building. As soon as labor was reported, staff was able to call the Gorilla family indoors so that Kumbuka could be closely monitored in a quiet environment.
Kumbuka’s initial maternal behavior toward the baby was perfect and normal. Unfortunately, Kumbuka was cradling and carrying her youngster improperly- similarly to the way that she behaved when she lost two previous offspring at another zoo.
It is theorized that Kumbuka’s hearing disability may prevent her from detecting when her youngsters are in distress. Faced with a life-threatening situation, the extremely difficult decision was made to remove Kumbuka’s baby for short-term assisted rearing by Gorilla care staff. This decision is supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla SSP (Species Survival Plan) group.
The Gorilla SSP recommended that Kumbuka join the Jacksonville Zoo troop to learn maternal behavior from the other mother Gorillas and participate in a maternal training program.
After her arrival in 2014, Jacksonville Gorilla care staff began suspecting that Kumbuka may be hearing-impaired. In 2017, her condition was confirmed through consultation with audiologists from Nemours Children’s Specialty Care.
Her diagnosis provided valuable information for developing a specialized birth management plan to improve Kumbuka’s chances for maternal success. Throughout Kumbuka’s pregnancy, keepers worked to teach her the correct way to position an infant and other essential maternal skills, while also planning for the potential need to intervene based on her history.
Now the training continues with keepers showing her the proper way to hold and carry the infant. Kumbuka is watching and learning as keepers provide around-the-clock care to her infant, right next door to her and the rest of the Gorillas. Kumbuka can see and smell her baby and shows particular interest when the keepers demonstrate walking “gorilla-style” while holding the little one. Maintaining the close connection between mother and daughter is essential for a successful reintroduction. Once the baby is strong enough to adjust herself, she can hopefully be reunited.