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Meet Mijadala

Proceeds raised from her naming will benefit field conservation programs for wild gorillas

The infant born to western lowland gorilla Kudzoo on September 18, 2016, has been named Mijadala. The moniker emerged as the winner in a public vote from Tuesday, January 31 through Monday, February 6, and raised more funds for gorilla conservation than did three other names in the running: Adia, Fahari and Tisa. Zoo Atlanta invited the public to back each vote with a $1 donation, and all funds raised by the naming will benefit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Zoo’s longtime partner in gorilla conservation.

“Every newborn gorilla is a gift, both in the wild and within zoological populations, and it’s very important to raise awareness of the ways the future of these populations intersect,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “With the gift of Mijadala’s birth, we’re excited to also be able to send a celebratory gift to field programs that are working every day for the protection of wild gorillas and their habitats in Africa.”

The name Mijadala, which means “discussions” in Swahili, was inspired by the infant’s unusually vocal nature; her caregivers say she is the most vocal gorilla infant ever born at the Zoo. Mijadala, or “Mija” for short, is the 23rd gorilla born in Zoo Atlanta’s Ford African Rain Forest and is a granddaughter of the legendary late Willie B. She is the ninth offspring of silverback Taz and has two full siblings: Merry Leigh, 5, and Macy Baby, 11. Macy Baby now lives at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia, S.C.

Wild western lowland gorilla populations have declined dramatically since the time of Willie B., the founder of Mijadala’s famous Zoo Atlanta family tree. 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 such as Ebola have reduced western lowland gorilla populations by 60 percent, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa. Populations living within 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.

In addition to being an active member of the Gorilla SSP and providing pro-bono space and resources for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Zoo Atlanta is a Gold Supporter of the AZA Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Conservation Initiative, a collective effort by zoos to protect wild ape populations. The Zoo also supports a number of other species and their habitats around the world via its Mabel Dorn Reeder Conservation Endowment Fund, as well as donates 25 cents of every Zoo admission ticket to field conservation programs via Quarters for Conservation, launched in 2016.

In 2011, the 50th anniversary year of its gorilla program, Zoo Atlanta received the prestigious Edward H. Bean Award for Significant Achievement from AZA for its long-term commitment to western lowland gorillas and training advancements for the species. Research by Zoo Atlanta staff has influenced industry-wide improvements in the care of gorillas in zoos, as well as enhanced understanding of gorilla biology, 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.

Now home to 21 western lowland gorillas, the Zoo is also home to three of the world’s oldest gorillas – Mijadala’s paternal grandmother, Shamba, 57; maternal grandmother, Choomba, 53; and 55-year-old Ozzie, the oldest living male gorilla in the world – and has become a leader in the emerging field of geriatric gorilla care.

Learn more about conservation efforts at Zoo Atlanta at zooatlanta.org. See Mijadala, her mother Kudzoo, and their family on your next visit, weather and temperatures permitting.

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