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A legacy continues

Hello Zoo Atlanta friends and fans! I’m Kaitlyn, and I’m one of the new members of the Gorilla Care Team. While I’m one of the newest humans on the team, I am not the newest addition in the gorilla building. I’m so excited to be sharing about the newest member of our gorilla family, Willie B. III, and how his family is responding to his arrival.

We welcomed the first baby of parents Shalia and Willie B., Jr., on April 24, and I can certainly say there is no better way to begin a new job. The Gorilla Care Team was pleasantly surprised by his arrival, as we were expecting him to make his debut in May. Shalia made childbirth look like a walk in the park! She was not only calm, cool, and collected all morning preceding his birth, but also remained that way throughout the day and gave birth with no complications, surrounded by her troop. As a new mom myself, I was in awe at her resilience and natural ability. Gorillas really are some of the most amazing animals.  

Shalia isn’t new at motherhood, as this is her second baby, but for the rest of her troop, these are uncharted waters. New father Willie B., Jr. has remained cautiously interested in the small bundle that never leaves Shalia’s arms – something many new fathers can relate to. At first, the new dad was hesitant to be in the same space as the infant and would observe only at a distance. Recently, however, we have noticed him observing from much closer and even appearing to lean in and gaze directly at the baby. This of course has caused many happy tears and squeaks of joy from the humans on the team. It’s momentous to experience Willie B., Jr.’s journey into fatherhood, not only because he’s a favorite of most of his care team, but also because of the legacy the birth of his son continues.

You may be wondering how “aunties” Kambera and Amari are reacting. This birth is important for many reasons, but one of them is the opportunity for the other girls to experience infant rearing. Motherhood is hard enough without having to learn on the job, so for gorilla troops, it’s important for females to be able to gain experience from watching their mothers and troop members raise babies. We are hoping that Kambera especially shows interest in Willie B., III, so she can learn from supermom Shalia and will be ready to care for her own infant when the time comes. Amari was immediately interested in the baby and began following Shalia around on day one. She can often be found peering over Shalia’s shoulder and watching as the baby sleeps or nurses. Mom is very tolerant of Amari’s interest, but will gently redirect her if Amari comes too close. Kambera didn’t show much interest to begin with, but she has recently began sitting closer to Shalia and sneaking peeks at the baby when she thinks no one is watching her. She can pretend not to think Willie B., III is the cutest thing she’s ever seen, but we all know you love him too, Kambera!

Keep an eye out for more updates on our newest family group as we continue to watch them all adjust to this new life. Stop by Gorilla Habitat 4 on your next visit and you’ll be sure to spot proud mom Shalia cradling her bundle of joy.

Kaitlyn K.
Keeper II, Primates

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