A baby gorilla born Friday at Woodland Park Zoo was being bottle-fed and cared for by keepers after her mother showed little interest in the infant.
A female gorilla born Friday at Woodland Park Zoo was being bottle-fed and cared for by keepers after her mother showed little interest in the infant.
Zoo staff remain optimistic that 19-year-old Nadiri, who gave birth for the first time, will warm to her new daughter, said zoo spokeswoman Gigi Allianic.
“They hope that she will pick up her baby, start to nurse her and cuddle her,” Allianic said.
The infant, which weighed about five pounds, had a good appetite and appeared healthy. She was born at 11:30 a.m., after four hours of labor.
But instead of immediately cleaning and nursing the baby, Nadiri walked away.
“She wasn’t showing the kind of maternal behavior that a mom normally would as soon as a baby is born,” Allianic said.
So zoo staff quickly retrieved the infant, kept her warm and fed her the same formula given to human babies.
Nadiri was rejected by her own mother and raised by zoo staff for the first 10 months of her life. Concerned about her potential child-rearing skills, zoo personnel had been training Nadiri to cradle a baby-sized burlap doll and hand it to keepers.
But that training didn’t seem to kick in on Friday.
During an “introduction session” several hours after the birth, zoo staff gave Nadiri access to the baby. But though she kept her eyes on the infant and uttered grunts that signal contentment, she didn’t approach the baby.
It’s possible that the new mother is simply exhausted, and that she will come around once she has a chance to rest, Allianic said.
The first 72 hours are critical for the baby’s survival, she added. It needs to be fed regularly and kept warm, functions that zoo staff will perform. They’ll also hold, rock and cuddle the infant.
Nadiri will be in an adjacent den, and able to see, smell and hear the baby through wire mesh.
If the mother gorilla’s behavior doesn’t change, Woodland Park — which recently weathered a furious debate over captive elephant breeding and the fate of the zoo’s two female elephants — will face a difficult choice.
In the past, primates were commonly hand-reared in zoos. But the practice is now discouraged, because such animals often have problems integrating socially with members of their own species.
The other option would be to find an experienced and nurturing female at another zoo who could act as a surrogate mother. Nina, the female who acted as Nadiri’s surrogate mother, died in May at the age of 47.
Woodland Park has 11 gorillas, living in three family groups. The latest birth is the 13th at the zoo, but the first in more than eight years.