Asheboro, NC - On Valentine's Day, a date traditionally set aside to celebrate love, it seemed an appropriate time for the North Carolina Zoo to announce that the third of its female gorillas is expecting a baby in early summer. If successful, it will mean all three female gorillas will have given birth at the State Zoo in less than a year.

Having seen two gorillas born over a four-week period in August 2013--a rare occurrence for any zoo--the N.C. Zoo's 18-year-old female gorilla, "Acacia," is expected to also give birth between mid-June and late-July. Zookeepers say several recent positive pregnancy tests have confirmed the pending birth. In all three cases, the father is "Nkosi," a 22-year-old male who arrived at the N.C. Zoo from the Columbus Zoo in March 2008.

On August 4, 2012, "Jamani," a 13-year-old female transferred to the N.C. Zoo in 2010 from the San Diego Zoo, gave birth to a male infant named "Bomassa." It marked the first gorilla birth at the State Zoo in 23 years. Four weeks later, 17-year-old "Olympia" delivered another male offspring dubbed "Apollo" by his keepers. Olympia had arrived in Asheboro from Zoo Atlanta in 2009.

Since the deliveries, Jamani, Olympia and their infants have all done extremely well-- in the process becoming the zoo's most popular attractions.

The N.C. Zoo's first baby gorilla, Kwanza, was born in March 1989. He was transferred in1998 to Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo as part of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) where he has since fathered offspring of his own. All three of the N.C. Zoo's gorilla pregnancies are the results of recommendations by the SSP-coordinated programs for the care and management of endangered species in AZA-accredited zoos.

The successful birth of a third gorilla in less than a year would not only be a significant achievement for the N.C. Zoo, but for the AZA's gorilla conservation effort as well. Currently there are only about 350 gorillas in 52 AZA-accredited zoos with just four successful births out of eight pregnancies recorded during 2011 and early 2012.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor.