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NC Zoo expecting historic birth

Posted on 05/04/11

ASHEBORO, NC - For the first time in 22 years and only the second in park history, the North Carolina Zoo is expecting a baby gorilla.

The mother is Jamani, age 11, who was transferred to Asheboro from the San Diego (California) Zoo in January 2010. According to zoo veterinarians, the first-time mom is expected to deliver in late July or early August. The father is "Nkosi," a 19-year-old male who arrived from the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo in March 2008.

The pairing of the two was recommended by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan, a cooperative program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) aimed at improving the captive care and breeding of these highly endangered great apes. If successful, the birth will be a major accomplishment, not only for the N.C. Zoo and its animal staff, but also for the entire AZA gorilla conservation effort. Currently there are only about 350 gorillas in 52 AZA-accredited zoos with just six successful births recorded during 2010.

Keepers and veterinarians suspected Jamani might be pregnant as early as last December. A number of pregnancy tests given over the ensuing months had returned positive results. But the pending birth was not confirmed until a sonogram, or sound wave, picture provided a view of the baby and its beating heart. The sex of the infant has not been determined.

If all goes well, the zoo could soon be hearing the patter of little feet around the gorilla exhibit. But as N.C. Zoo Mammal Curator Terry Webb cautioned, there can sometimes be difficulties in carrying or delivering a baby for a first-time gorilla mother.

The N.C. Zoo's first baby gorilla, Kwanza, was born in March 1989. The little male instantly became the zoo's marquee attraction and was credited with bringing 80,000 additional visitors during his first year on exhibit. But in 1998 Kwanza was transferred to Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo in another breeding move coordinated by the Gorilla SSP. In Chicago, Kwanza's name was shortened to "Kwan," and he was matched with several unrelated females that in 2005 resulted in the N.C. Zoo's favorite son becoming a father himself.

Kwanza's parents have both since passed away. His father, Carlos, was transferred to Zoo Atlanta several years after Kwanza's birth and died there in September 2001. Hope, his mother, remained at the N.C. Zoo until her passing in May 2009 due to several age-related illnesses.
For more information, visit the zoo's website at www.nczoo.org.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly Eaves Perdue, Governor.

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