Cincinnati Zoo is Turning Staff into Gorilla Moms Again

Posted September 24, 2014

photo1CINCINNATI – (September 23, 2014) Primate keepers and staff at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden are trading in their khaki uniforms for faux-fur vests for the next few months and will work as a team to hand raise a female baby gorilla, “Kamina” (pronounced Kuh-me-nuh), born August 16, 2014, at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden (OKC Zoo) in Oklahoma City, OK. After raising baby gorilla “Gladys” and placing her with her surrogate gorilla mom last year, our team of human surrogate moms is ready to jump in and do the same with Kamina.  The vests, baby equipment and a special area in the gorilla exhibit are already in place.

OKC Zoo’s veterinarian team and gorilla keepers determined that Kamina needed to be cared for by staff after her mother, “Ndjole” (pronounced In-jōlee), did not demonstrate any signs of maternal care toward her baby.  “Ndjole was given several opportunities to bond with her baby within the first 24 hours and didn’t show any interest in her, putting the newborn’s life at risk,” said OKC Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino.

After exploring options to reunite the infant with other gorillas, OKC Zoo and the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) determined that Cincinnati Zoo, after its recent success with Gladys (View Playlist of Gladys Videos), would be the ideal place for Kamina. “We have an available auntie surrogate female along with a good stable family group that matches up well with Kamina’s post-surrogacy, long term management,” said Curator of Primates Ron Evans.

” It’s a real honor for the Cincinnati Zoo to be recommended for another baby gorilla surrogacy project and to know our colleagues at other zoos and the Gorilla SSP can depend on us in this way.  As with Gladys last year, surrogating Kamina here at the Cincinnati Zoo is both exciting and challenging.  There are a lot of moving parts to manage such a thing but luckily we have a fantastic and experienced team of managers, vets, keepers, outside consultants and human surrogates along with strong support from Zoo Director Thane Maynard. Although we’re just getting started, I’m already looking forward to the day when little Kamina gets a real gorilla mom,” said Evans.

Kamina will spend time behind the scenes in the Zoo’s Nursery for the next few days to make sure the baby is healthy and doesn’t bring any contagious illnesses into the Gorilla World exhibit, exposing both the current gorillas and the staff. Once the vets give her a clean bill of health, she will move to her more permanent home at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The introduction process to a new gorilla troop will be gradual to ensure a favorable integration.  Kamina will be cared for by human surrogates for approximately 12 – 14 weeks before being placed with one of our female gorillas, who will become her surrogate mom.

Look for #BabyGorillaKamina updates on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

There are about 765 gorillas in zoos worldwide including approximately 360 in the AZA’s SSP.  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 and the Mondika Gorilla Tracking 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. The research in Mondika allows for up close gorilla observation along with inspirational eco tourism opportunities. Through research, local education programs, publications and documentaries, the  Nouabalé-Ndoki Project is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival.