WESTERN LOWLAND GORILLA BORN AT ZOO ATLANTA
Infant born to Shalia is first offspring of Willie B., Jr.
ATLANTA – April 25, 2023 – Zoo Atlanta is overjoyed to announce the birth of an infant to western lowland gorilla Shalia on April 24, 2023. While the new arrival was born around two weeks prior to what was originally anticipated as the opening of Shalia’s birth window, the infant appears healthy and strong, is nursing normally, and is receiving appropriate maternal care.
The newborn, whose sex is not yet confirmed, is the 25th gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest in 1988. While this is not the first grandchild of the late Willie B., it is the first offspring for Willie B., Jr., only son of his legendary late father.
“The Willie B. legacy is a uniquely Atlanta tradition. Generations of Atlantans grew up with Willie B. and later his children and grandchildren, making connections not only with gorillas but also with a story that has become symbolic of the evolution of Zoo Atlanta,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “We are thrilled to see that legacy continue and to welcome a newborn ambassador for a critically endangered species.”
Willie B., Jr.’s four sisters – Kudzoo, Olympia, Sukari, and Lulu – have all made their own contributions as group members and mothers over the years. Kudzoo, Sukari, and Lulu continue to reside at Zoo Atlanta with children of their own. Olympia currently resides at another Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) accredited organization and has a son.
Willie B., Jr.’s troop, which was formed relatively recently, also includes two other adult females, Kambera and Amari. Willie B., Jr. and Shalia were recommended to breed by the AZA Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which seeks to maintain self-sustaining, genetically diverse gorilla populations in accredited zoos.
Members and guests should be on the lookout for sightings of Shalia and the infant at Gorilla Habitat 4 in The Ford African Rain Forest, although sightings of the infant are not guaranteed.
Zoo Atlanta has a globally recognized program for the care and behavioral study of western lowland gorillas, which are critically endangered. Wild populations have plummeted in recent years as a result of habitat loss, poaching, illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade, and emerging diseases. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over a 25-year period, these combined threats have reduced wild populations by 60 percent, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa.
The Zoo is home to one of North America’s largest populations of gorillas. Research by Zoo Atlanta team members has influenced 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 supports the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) Program, which focuses expertise within accredited zoos. For more than 20 years, the Zoo has supported its longtime partner in gorilla conservation, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, by providing pro-bono headquarters space, information technology support, and financial resources. Zoo Atlanta also supports the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project, which works to mitigate threats to western lowland gorillas and other apes in the Congo Basin, through its Mabel Dorn Reeder Conservation Endowment Fund.
Stay tuned for details on opportunities to help Zoo Atlanta celebrate the arrival of the new infant and to highlight the upcoming 35th anniversary of Willie B.’s first day outdoors in The Ford African Rain Forest.
Plan a visit or learn more about the gorilla program at Zoo Atlanta at zooatlanta.org.