Early Mother’s Day morning, a worker at Lincoln Park Zoo found a new addition to the gorilla exhibit.
“Even though this wasn’t my first gorilla, I was really shocked still,” said Jill Moyse, curator of primates at the zoo.
She came to the exhibit Sunday morning to find a newborn western lowland boy gorilla being held close to his mother’s chest. Later, Moyse found through camera footage that the baby was born at 2 a.m. on May 12.
The unnamed infant is the 53rd gorilla birth at the Regenstein Center for African Apes. He is the second offspring for mother Rollie and father Kwan.
Now, Rollie is being given privacy from zoogoers, so the apes building is closed to the public. It is scheduled to reopen May 18.
Zoo workers are trained to interact with mothers and newborns. They work with pregnant gorillas to hold a fake baby and train them to bring it toward workers. Even though the mother is protective, this training allows workers to get a closer look at a newborn.
The team is completely hands-off unless they see a problem, which hasn’t been the case with Rollie’s baby.
“Mom is doing a great job of taking care of it,” Moyse said. “We confirmed nursing at 8 a.m. on Mother’s Day, and we saw all the right signs.”
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in their native area, Central Africa. This is due to habitat loss and poaching.
Scientists at the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes work on conservation at the zoo and in the Republic of the Congo.
Blair Paddock is a news desk intern at WBEZ. Follow them @blairpaddock.