By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has announced the arrival of a new male Western Lowland gorilla. The baby was born early Tuesday morning, June 19, inside the Great EscApe day room. The lucky parents are mother Ndjole (pronounced In-jōlee) and father Togo (pronounced Toe-go). This marks the 27th gorilla born at the Oklahoma City Zoo since 1974.
Weighing two kilograms (4.4 pounds) at birth, the baby gorilla in good health as reported in the Zoo press release. However, despite multiple attempts, Ndjole has not displayed any signs of maternal care toward her baby since giving birth, and the OKC Zoo’s veterinarian and caretaker teams have made the decision to hand rear the infant, the release stated.
“We gave Ndjole several opportunities to bond with her newborn within the first 24 hours but saw no signs that she was interested in caring for him,” said Robin Newby, assistant curator of primates. “Zoo animal care team members and trained volunteers will provide around-the-clock care in an off-exhibit area in Great EscApe as we continue to explore every option to reunite the infant with other gorillas.”
It is the Zoo’s goal to explore every option to reunite the infant with other gorillas as soon as possible, Newby said.
The Zoo’s veterinarian team and gorilla caretakers will work with the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to determine when the baby will be returned to a gorilla group or placed with a surrogate mother, even if that means relocating to another AZA-accredited zoo.
SSP programs oversee the population management of select species within AZA member institutions.
Ndjole, a 22-year-old Western lowland gorilla, came to the OKC Zoo in 2010 from the San Diego Zoo.
She has previously birthed two offspring. Her first, a male, Bouendje, 12, is a member of the Zoo’s bachelor gorilla troop in Great EscApe. Female Kamina, her second offspring, was born at the OKC Zoo in 2014 and now resides at the Columbus Zoo.
Father Togo, a 29-year-old silverback Western lowland gorilla, arrived at the Zoo in 2012 from the Como Park Zoo as part of a breeding recommendation made by the Gorilla SSP. Togo’s gorilla family also includes females Mikella, Emily, Kelele and youngsters, Leom, Rubi and Azinza.
With this recent addition, the Zoo continues its involvement in the Gorilla SSP. According to their website, one of the SSP’s most important roles is to manage gorillas as a population to ensure that the population remains healthy, genetically-diverse and self-sustaining. Native to the lowland forests of Central and Western Africa, Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered. Commercial hunting for meat, habitat loss and disease are contributing factors to their status in the wild.
OKC Zoo hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.