Binti Jua, of the Brookfield Zoo's western lowland gorilla family, couldn't wait until Mother's Day to have her baby, and so gave birth around 7:30 a.m. on Monday, May 2. Mother and baby were off exhibit at the time, and father Ramar is probably one proud papa.
This active male baby weighed in at a very healthy 4 to 5 pounds, and has been nursing very strongly. That is one hungry baby!
Mama Binti and her baby have decided to go out on exhibit at the zoo's Tropic World, and interested crowds have been coming out to see the new arrival.
Seventeen-year-old Binti was originally hand raised at the San Francisco Zoo, but was never fully accepted by her gorilla group. In 1991, she came to Brookfield to help her socialize and eventually breed.
In 1995, she gave birth to her first daughter, Koola. A year-and-a-half later, Binti became world famous when she picked up a small child who had fallen into the gorilla exhibit, and carried him safely to a doorway where zoo staff could reach and remove the boy.
Papa Ramar is a 37-year-old wild-born gorilla who was raised by a human family and also found fame when appearing on television and at major theme parks. He arrived at Brookfield Zoo in 1998 on a breeding loan program from the North Carolina Zoological Park.
Prior to that date, Ramar had not sired any offspring, but at Brookfield he has thrived in an ideal stable social group of several adult females. His three offspring to date are Nadaya, age 4; Kamba at age 8, and currently, the new baby.
"This birth is a wonderful illustration of Brookfield Zoo's conservation leadership," said Melinda Pruett-Jones, curator of primates at the zoo, in a release from the zoo. "Binti and Ramar both came to Brookfield Zoo with a lot to learn about being gorillas. They blossomed into the stable group environment and each found their place within the troop."
Since March of this year, Binti has allowed keepers to apply an ultrasound gel, and to touch her belly with a probe to prepare for biweekly ultrasound to allow the veterinary staff to monitor the health and development of the unborn baby gorilla. The ultrasound images allowed the staff to compare the size of the fetus with those in other birthing mothers at other zoos, and to know when the baby's birth was actually beginning.
"Binti is an exceptional gorilla. She [has been] extremely tolerant and receptive to her training," said Betty Green, a senior keeper at Tropic World. "This birth is the culmination of a lot of dedicated work by keepers and veterinary staff. It has been a very rewarding experience, and we are all incredibly proud of Binti. All of us are excited and relieved because we feel like this is our baby, too."
The newborn's birth will be celebrated by a naming contest, to be held in early June. Also, an online baby registry will allow everyone to help share the care for Mama Binti and her baby.
While mother and child are currently viewable at the Tropic World exhibit, also video clips of them can be seen online (large Windows Media files?"broadband connection required?"at www.brookfieldzoo.org). You can see for yourself, and nearer than observing on site, the baby spending much time nursing; a close up of the baby; and how a baby brings families together, with Mama Binti, Papa Ramar, 10 year old daughter Koola, and all the kids.
Western lowland gorillas are endangered due to habitat destruction primarily from illegal and legal logging, the effects of war and refugees in ape habitats, the illegal pet trade and poaching for bushmeat.
It is not known how many western lowland gorillas survive in their native land of west Africa. Recent estimates have put the number between 90,000 and 110,000.
What is certain is that one more of their descendants has now taken up residence at Brookfield Zoo. Now is the time to welcome Mama Binti's baby.