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Como continues recent baby boom

Posted on 10 April 2015 by Calvin

SONY DSCComo Zoo is continuing its recent baby boom announced the addition of a baby western lowland gorilla to its troop. The female gorilla was born in late February to first-time mother Dara inside the day room of the Gorilla Forest exhibit.

It is extremely important for mom and baby to bond shortly after birth and for the baby to begin nursing. While bonding wasn’t an issue for the pair, nursing was in question. During the week after birth the zoo staff, medical and veterinary professionals were able to gain access to the baby for a physical that included giving the baby fluids. The baby was soon reunited with her mother and shortly after that regular, timely nursing began.

Typically Zoo staff will not intervene unless the health of the infant is compromised or the mother shows no motherly instinct. In this case, the baby and mother were able to work out the situation with guidance from the Como Zoo staff and medical and veterinary professionals.

As a tribute to the late Arlene Scheunemann, often referred to as Como’s “Zoo Mom,” the baby will be named “Arlene”. Beginning in 1968 and spanning 45 years, Arlene Scheunemann was mother to four human children and foster mom to over 200 wild animals in her home. Arlene was responsible for the care and feeding of newborn animals such as tigers, orangutans, and gorillas in the days before Como had the facilities to care for infant animals.

Gorillas have an eight and a half month gestation period followed by an unassisted birthing process. Offspring are born nearly helpless except to cling to their mother’s fur and to nurse. Young gorillas stay with their mothers for several years after birth. At birth, baby gorillas weigh between 4 and 5 pounds. Each animal at Como Zoo has its own Birth Management Plan. Como has been recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as a leader in gorilla care and conservation for 56 years.

Gorilla mothers are very protective of their babies. A gorilla mother will carry the baby on her chest for the first three months. At about 6-months-old the baby will move to ride on the mother’s back and begin playing and moving around on the ground close to mother. “Gorillas are very family oriented,” said Jo Kelly, Senior Zookeeper. “Mom will let other family members see the baby and they will take their cues from mom as to how close they can be.” When the baby is older and able to move around on its own, other family members, including dad, will play with the baby.

The baby’s father, Schroeder, a 29-year-old silverback Western lowland gorilla, has been at Como Zoo since 1991. Schroeder’s troop includes females Dara (11), Nne (26 and pronounced E-Nee), and Alice (12) who also gave birth to a baby in November 2014, but sadly her baby passed away shortly after birth. Alice and Dara both came to Como Zoo as part of the AZA Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Gorilla SSP serves 52 zoos across the United States to help guide the management of the gorilla population.

With this recent addition, Como Zoo continues its involvement in the Gorilla SSP. One of the SSP’s most important roles is to manage gorillas as a population to ensure that the population remains healthy, genetically-diverse and self-sustaining. Native to the lowland forests of Central and Western Africa, Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered. Commercial hunting for meat, habitat loss and disease are contributing factors to their status in the wild.

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