Almost a year after mourning the death of a newborn gorilla, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens this morning announced the first successful gorilla birth in its history. The newborn’s sex is currently unknown.
The infant was born the morning of February 6 to mother Bulera, and father Lash. The newborn will debut on exhibit with mom on Sunday, February 8, pending weather conditions. The zoo’s veterinarian and animal staff are closely monitoring mother and baby, but will only offer assistance if needed.
In late March last year, a baby born to Lash and a different mother, Madini, shortly after birth. Madini, whose mother is actually Bulera, was a first-time mother, to whom the likelihood of infant mortality is 50 percent higher than for mothers who’ve already given birth.
Bulera and Lash were recommended to breed by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan, a group of zoo professionals who cooperatively manage the gorilla population at zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They are responsible for making science-based breeding and transfer recommendations as well as providing support and guidance on all aspects of gorilla management at AZA institutions to maintain a healthy, diverse and sustainable safety-net population for their critically endangered wild animal counterparts.
Bulera was born at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo in 1989, and gave birth to Madini there when she was just 7 years old. Gorillas learn behaviors from others, and since it was her first birth, Bulera required assistance from another gorilla female to successfully raise Madini.
Lash was born on Christmas Day in 1976 at the Cincinnati Zoo. He lived in a bachelor group with Rumpel at the Jacksonville Zoo for eight years before being introduced to Bulera and Madini. “Gorillas,” the zoo’s briefing on the species notes, “live in groups of one adult male and several females. They play, sleep and eat within this structured family group. The old, dominant silverback male leads the group. He regulates what time they wake up, eat, and go to sleep.”
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens currently has two male gorillas, Lash, age 38, and Rumpel, 30, three female gorillas – Bulera, 25, Madini, 18, and Kumbuka, 18.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens supports the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), an African-based facility where orphaned lowland gorillas receive the care they need and also learn the skills for reintroduction back in to the wild. GRACE also strives to provide educational opportunities for local communities to promote gorilla conservation around the Tayna Nature Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.