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Ohio zoo celebrates birth of critically endangered western lowland gorilla

The western lowland gorilla population has decreased by 60% over the last two decades.
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Posted at 11:59 AM, Jul 05, 2024

Officials at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio are celebrating the birth of a western lowland gorilla as poaching, along with disease, habitat loss and deforestation, have combined to make the species critically endangered.

The Columbus Zoo said the gorilla was born June 29 and first-time mother Sue is "very attentive and providing excellent care to her little one, who she nuzzles and cradles closely." Officials have not determined the sex of the gorilla yet because zookeepers are providing space for Sue and her baby to bond.

“For months, our care team has been busy preparing for the baby’s arrival, and we are thrilled that the time has finally come to welcome this important new addition. With tiny hands and beautiful big brown eyes that melt our hearts, this baby is absolutely precious—in regard to both the cuteness factor and what the baby represents for this species’ future. We are proud of the dedication of our care teams who diligently work to provide the gorillas with top quality care and wellbeing while continuing the legacy of the Columbus Zoo’s renowned gorilla program,” said Audra Meinelt, curator of the Columbus Zoo’s Congo Expedition region.

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There have been 35 gorillas born at the Columbus Zoo since 1956 when Colo became the first gorilla ever to be born in professional care.

The western lowland gorilla has been subject to massive die-offs due to ebola and other diseases, according to the World Wildlife Federation. The WWF said that one-third of the wild gorilla population has been killed by ebola, with the western lowland gorilla the most impacted species.

Despite laws against it, poaching is also a significant reason behind the western lowland gorilla nearing extinction. The WWF estimates that about 5% of western lowland gorillas are killed every year in the Congo due to poaching activities.

Because of these threats, the estimated number of western lowland gorillas has decreased by 60%-65% over the last 20-25 years. The WWF adds that even if all of the threats facing these gorillas go away, it could take 75 years for the population to recover.