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.
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About the gorilla program at Zoo Atlanta
The arrival of Zoo Atlanta’s most famous gorilla, the late Willie B., in 1961, evolved into what is today a nationally-recognized program for the care and behavioral study of critically endangered western lowland gorillas. Twenty-three gorillas have been born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of the landmark Ford African Rain Forest in 1988, with all infants having been mother-reared or reared by a gorilla surrogate. In 2011, the 50th anniversary year of its gorilla program, Zoo Atlanta earned the distinguished Edward H. Bean Award for Significant Achievement from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for its long-term commitment to the species. Research published by Zoo Atlanta staff has resulted in more than 100 scientific papers on gorilla behavior, biology, reproduction and care. Zoo Atlanta is the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first coordinated effort to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa. Zoo Atlanta’s primary partner in gorilla conservation, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, is headquartered at Zoo Atlanta and protects and supports gorillas and their habitats in Africa.
About Zoo Atlanta
Viewed as one of the finest zoological institutions in the U.S. and a proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Zoo Atlanta has a mission to inspire value and preservation of wildlife through a unique mix of education and outdoor family experiences. From well-known native wildlife to critically endangered species on the brink of extinction, the Zoo offers memorable close encounters with more than 1,000 animals from around the world. Zoo highlights include giant pandas, including Ya Lun and Xi Lun, a set of twins born to Lun Lun on September 3, 2016; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, featuring more than 70 species in a 111,000 square-foot complex, is the world’s first LEED Gold-certified reptile and amphibian exhibit. The Zoo’s newest experience, Treetop Trail presented by Kaiser Permanente, opened in March 2017. Up-close-and-personal animal experiences include behind-the-scenes Wild Encounters with African elephants, African lions, Aldabra giant tortoises and giant pandas. Zoo Atlanta is open year-round with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Keeper talks, interactive wildlife presentations, education programs and special events run year-round. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org.