Seventeen months ago Gorilla Forest opened to the public with seven gorillas; six that were new to Como Zoo. Today, Como is excited to announce the pregnancy of not one, but two of the gorillas. According to recent pregnancy tests, two of Como Zoo’s female gorillas, Alice and Dara, each received plusses. Alice has been positive on three separate pregnancy tests and is close to her birth window of October 18 to December 2. Dara has also tested positive three times and her birth window is between December 18 and February 1, 2015. This is the first pregnancy for both gorillas. Longtime Como Zoo denizen Schroeder (28), who is considered genetically valuable to conservationists, will be the first-time father of both. This will also be the first gorilla births in Como’s 55 year history of caring for gorillas.
“We wanted to test the females multiple times. Even with just one positive indication from the pregnancy test, we weren’t 100-percent sure that Alice and Dara were pregnant,” said Jo Kelley, Senior Zookeeper. “It isn’t as easy as the test suggests.”
Alice (12) and Dara (11) both recently came to Como Zoo as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP).The Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) serves 52 zoos across the United States to help guide the management of the gorilla population. Although their primary role is in population management, the SSP is ultimately interested in the health and well-being of all gorillas, including those living outside accredited zoos and in the wild. Western lowland gorillas are highly endangered due to loss of habitat, poaching, and disease.
A gorilla gestation is approximately eight months. At birth, baby gorillas weigh between 4 and 5 pounds. It is important for mom and baby to bond shortly after birth and for the baby to begin nursing. The mortality rate for infant gorillas in the first several months is 40 percent.
Gorilla mothers are very protective of their babies. A gorilla mother will carry the baby on her chest for the first three months. At about 6-months-old the baby will move to ride on the mother’s back and begin playing and moving around on the ground close to mother. “Gorillas are very family oriented,” said Kelly. “Mom will let other family members see the baby and they will take their cues from mom as to how close they can be.” When the baby is older, and able to move around on its own, other family members, including dad, will play with the baby.
Gorilla Forest at Como Zoo is home to seven gorillas: three bachelor males—Jabir, Samson, and Virgil (all 15 years-old), and a family group consisting of Schroeder, Alice, Dara and another female, Nne (pronounced E-nee who is 26).