Knoxville, Tennessee – Knoxville Zoo is celebrating the birth of their second endangered Western lowland gorilla baby, just five days after welcoming the first gorilla ever born in Knoxville.
Zoo staff observed 39-year-old mother Machi showing signs of labor mid-morning and the baby came soon thereafter at 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, in the courtyard of the Gorilla Valley habitat.
Both mother and baby appear to be doing well; Machi has been cleaning and caring for the baby appropriately and staff are watching closely for signs of nursing.
The gorilla group is being monitored continuously to make sure the dynamics of the family group that includes new mother Hope and her baby, 37-year-old female Kowali and 17-year-old father Bantu are good. Machi is a subordinate female in the social hierarchy, and therefore staff are being particularly vigilant to how inexperienced father Bantu is interacting with the new mother and baby.
As long as the baby and mother continue to do well and there are no concerns about their interaction with the other members of the family group, zoo staff will not intervene and let Machi do her job as a mother gorilla.
“I don’t think you can have a better week than this”, said Lisa New, executive director of Knoxville Zoo. “We now have two gorilla babies who are part of the future of gorilla conservation worldwide. It’s a moment Knoxville can be proud of.”
Machi came to Knoxville in 2013 from Zoo Atlanta on the recommendation of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan. This is Machi’s fourth baby, and zoo staff have every expectation she will be a caring and nurturing mother based on her history.
Knoxville Zoo’s gorilla habitat, Gorilla Valley, will be closed to general viewing for the immediate future to give mother and baby time to bond. Zoo staff will open the area as soon as Machi seems receptive to having visitors.
Western lowland gorillas are native to the rainforests of equatorial Africa. While the decline in their numbers can be attributed to habitat loss, commercial hunting and outbreaks of the Ebola virus have been having significant impact on the population since the early 1980’s. Western lowland gorillas are classified as a Critically Endangered species by the ICUN Redlist of Endangered Species, which is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species. Knoxville Zoo works with other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as part of the conservation efforts of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), which manages the breeding and social placement of all gorillas in the U.S.
Knoxville Zoo is Knoxville’s largest year-round attraction. Located off exit 392 from Interstate 40, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. Currently, the zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. Next-day admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call 865.637.5331 ext. 300 or visit knoxvillezoo.org.