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Gorilla baby boom

Julia and her beautiful new baby at the Bronx Zoo. Photo: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society.

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We humans should be so cute. The compelling portrait above, of 33-year-old Western lowland gorilla Julia and her newborn infant, is not only beyond adorable, it really captures the intelligence and depth of emotion in the eyes of these spectacular animals.

This baby’s birth was the first of two at the Bronx Zoo over the last weeks.

Julia gave birth on March 10, and on April 17, 19-year-old Tuti had her baby. Both infants share a dad—31-year-old Ernie.

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered and every birth counts.

It’s wonderful to hear that Julia and Tuti, both experienced mothers, are raising their babies on their own. Some zoo animals, gorillas among them, can be incompetent parents if they have not grown up witnessing others of their kind giving birth and caring for their young as they would in the wild.

Tuti looks into her baby’s face. Photo: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society.

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That didn’t happen here. The Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest houses 20 gorillas – the largest group of gorillas in North America. (The zoo participates in a cooperative breeding program called the Species Survival Plan, which helps manage the mating of animals in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.)

Julia’s baby. Photo: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society.

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Both mothers are doing such a good job that the zoo has not interfered with their parenting. In fact, keepers haven’t even gotten close enough to determine the sex of the babies.

Born at 4 or 5 pounds, the tiny gorillas, if male, could grow up to weigh as much as 450 pounds and stand bipedally at 6 feet.

–Vicki Croke

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