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CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Zoo is thrilled to announce that its 3-month-old Western Lowland gorilla, “Gladys,” will be making her public debut in her outdoor yard on Tuesday, April 30, at 10:30 a.m.  Over the next month, Gladys will be spending time in her outdoor yard with human surrogates, as part of Phase III of her “gorillafication.”   Surrogates will allow her to explore all areas of the outdoor yard, climbing trees and ducking into caves, to ensure Gladys is familiar with the yard and comfortable when she goes outdoors with her gorilla surrogate in the near future. 

Beginning Wednesday, May 1, the Zoo kicks off its Zoo Babies event and visitors will get to see Gladys daily from 12:45 p.m. – 2 p.m. Gladys’ appearances are tentative and may be canceled, shortened or rescheduled due to weather (it needs to be at least 60 and sunny) or due to critical stages in her introduction to her gorilla surrogate, that would require her to remain behind the scenes. 

Gladys was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo on January 29, 2013.  After birth, mother, 14 -year-old “Kiazi,” didn’t respond well and rejected the infant.  This behavior, which occasionally happens in first-time mothers, resulted in keepers from the Gladys Porter Zoo stepping in to hand-rear the infant until they had a plan in place. Unfortunately, all of the viable surrogates there already had young gorillas, so they began to look elsewhere.  After countless phone calls with the Gladys Porter Zoo, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Maternal Management Committee and the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) Committee, the Cincinnati Zoo was determined to be the best home for the baby. Gladys is currently being hand raised by a group of approximately 10 human surrogates, until she can transition to a gorilla surrogate in the coming months.

There are about 765 gorillas in zoos worldwide including approximately 360 in the AZA’s SSP.  The Cincinnati Zoo is now home to eight Western lowland gorillas, including Silverback Jomo and his family of Samantha, M’Linzi, Asha and Anju. 

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink.  The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests.  Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year. The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts like the Mbeli Bai Study in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.  The Mbeli Bai Study is the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas.  Through research, local education programs, publications and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival. More information >

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is open 364 days a year.  Hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. after Labor Day and 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.  General admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 2-9 and seniors 60+.  Children under 2 and Cincinnati Zoo members are free.  For more information please visit us online at www.cincinnatizoo.org.