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Lulu the western lowland gorilla is expecting

Summer delivery will mark the 24th gorilla birth in the Zoo’s Ford African Rain Forest.

Lulu, a 19-year-old western lowland gorilla, is expecting an infant. The pregnancy was confirmed via ultrasound, and the Zoo Atlanta Animal Care Team detected a fetus on ultrasound in early 2019. The infant, expected to arrive in summer 2019, will be the third offspring of Lulu and 29-year-old silverback Taz and a grandchild of Lulu’s famous father, the late Willie B.

Every birth is critical for the North American zoological population of western lowland gorillas, which are now classified as critically endangered. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over a 25-year period, the combined threats of poaching, illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade, habitat loss and emerging diseases have reduced wild populations by 60 percent, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa. Populations living within accredited North American zoos are overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse gorilla population for future generations.

“We’re thrilled about welcoming another new member to the continuing legacy of the gorilla program at Zoo Atlanta,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Deputy Director. “Gorillas are an area of longtime leadership for our organization. That leadership is more vital than ever before if we are to maintain the health and viability of the zoological population while using our knowledge, resources and roles as educators to preserve gorillas in the wild.”

Lulu’s infant will be the 24th gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of the landmark Ford African Rain Forest in 1988 – a transformation largely inspired by Atlanta’s deep connection to Willie B. In the more than 50 years since Willie B. arrived in Atlanta in 1961, the Zoo Atlanta gorilla program has evolved into a nationally recognized center of excellence in the care and study of gorillas.

For more than 20 years, Zoo Atlanta has been a significant conservation partner of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, providing headquarters space, information technology support and financial support for the organization. Over the years, the Zoo has also provided the Fossey Fund with board leadership and program support, as well as shared scientific team members.

Research by Zoo Atlanta team members has influenced industry-wide improvements in the care of gorillas in zoos, as well as enhanced the world’s understanding of gorillas, with more than 100 published papers on maternal care, reproduction, social behavior and cognition. Zoo Atlanta is the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first effort to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos. The Zoo is a Platinum Supporter of the AZA Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), a collective effort to preserve wild ape populations and to increase and sustain financial support from zoos for their conservation.

Currently home to 20 individuals, Zoo Atlanta houses one of the largest populations of gorillas in North America. The Zoo is also home to two of the world’s oldest gorillas – female Choomba, 56, and Ozzie, the world’s oldest living male gorilla at 58 – and as such has become a leader in the emerging field of geriatric gorilla care. Gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of about 40.

Learn more about gorillas and their conservation here. Follow Zoo Atlanta Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates as Lulu’s pregnancy progresses. 

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