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Endangered Gorilla Born at Smithsonian’s National Zoo


A western lowland gorilla was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., yesterday.

“The gorilla birth is significant for the National Zoo,” the zoo said in a statement.

“Western lowland gorillas, which are native to tropical forests of West and Central Africa, are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species, primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation and poaching.”

The baby was born to 26-year-old female Mandara and 16-year-old Baraka. The newborn is the seventh successful gorilla birth for the zoo since 1991.

“This is the sixth offspring for Mandara,” the zoo added. “The newborn joins siblings Kigali, Kwame and Kojo, as well as group member Haloko at the Great Ape House. All of the Zoo’s gorillas will remain on exhibit.”

The baby’s sex has not yet been determined.

Photo Credit: Pepper Watkins/courtesy Smithsonian’s National Zoo


“Mandara is a very experienced and competent mother, and we’re confident that she will properly care for and bond with her baby,” said Don Moore, associate director for animal care.

The zoo’s gorilla breeding program participates in the Species Survival Plan, in which North American zoos collaborate to encourage the development of a self-sustaining zoo gorilla population, helping to ensure the survival of this endangered species. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

Mandara, the mother of the new gorilla, was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo in April 1982. She came to the National Zoo in October 1985. Baraka was born at the National Zoo in 1992 to Haloko and Gus.


Update January 12: Smithsonian’s National Zoo gorilla, Mandara, nurses her newborn baby on January 12, 2009. National Zoo staff report that both mom and baby are doing well. “The baby’s sex is still unknown since Mandara has not held the baby up to the window long enough for staff to make a determination,” the zoo said in a statement.

 Photo credit: Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo