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Kioja the gorilla is pregnant!

Watching this video would be an ultrasound decision…

The entire zoo team is thrilled, and this mama-to-be is receiving constant care. But when is she due?

It’s a gr-APE day for some exciting news! One of our female western lowland gorillas, Kioja, is pregnant and expecting her first baby in early March 2016. This is the first gorilla pregnancy since 2008, when little Yewande was welcomed into our gorilla troop!

The anticipated baby was sired by the troop’s silverback, 37 year-old Kakinga, who has fathered nine other offspring since 1993. Although we have had gorillas for more than 50 years, Kakinga has been the zoo’s most successful silverback since becoming troop leader in 1993. Kioja arrived at the Calgary Zoo in 2009 along with her half-sister Dossi from the Bronx Zoo, where she was born in 2001.

Future mom Kioja rests on a play structure in the gorilla enclosure.

Future mom Kioja rests on a play structure in the gorilla enclosure.

Currently the zoo’s gorilla troop consists of silverback Kakinga and four females, 18 year-old Zuri, 14 year-old Dossi, 14 year-old Kioja and 7 year-old Yewande.

As this is the first offspring for Kioja, the zoo’s gorilla team has been working with her to help prepare for the birth. This includes specialized training, conducting regular ultrasounds, behavioural analysis and close monitoring by the zoo’s veterinary staff. Normal gestation for gorillas is about eight to nine months or 37 weeks, much the same as a human pregnancy.

This connection to human pregnancy is exactly why we can’t wait to share this journey with our supporters! The similarities between human and gorilla gestation are numerous, and significant signs are easily recognizable to our visitors. As we update you over the next couple months, it will be a special opportunity to educate our zoo community about the natural lives of this critically endangered species.

Part of monitoring a gorilla pregnancy is conducting ultrasounds- just like for human mothers.

Part of monitoring a gorilla pregnancy is conducting ultrasounds- just like for human mothers.

“We are excited for this new addition to our gorilla troop as a baby is the best enrichment for the group. In the wild, gorillas are critically endangered and by adding another member to our troop we are continuing to ensure there is genetic diversity within captive populations and safeguard the long-term future of this species.” -Dr. Malu Celli, Curator, Calgary Zoo.

Why is this baby so important? Western lowland gorillas are currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Gorillas are a part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) which help to ensure genetic diversity in captive populations and may safeguard against the species from becoming extinct. In the wild, populations of western lowland gorillas are under siege, having dropped more than 80 percent in just three generations. These gorillas face exceptionally high levels of hunting, disease and habitat loss and it is estimated that there are fewer than 100,000 left in the wild.

Kioja is starting to look visibly pregnant. Gorillas usually have a small potbelly, but this is no ordinary stomach!

Kioja is starting to look visibly pregnant. Gorillas usually have a small potbelly, but this is no ordinary stomach!

Besides participating in Species Survival Plans (SSP’s) for the best breeding recommendations, to help save gorillas we collect cell phones for the Eco-Cell program, which supports gorilla conservation efforts through cell phone recycling. The mineral coltan is found inside cell phones, which is mined in areas were gorillas live. By recycling phones, gorilla habitat is preserved and further work is being done to protect these critically endangered animals. Calgarians are asked to drop off their old cell phones to Guest Relations at the main zoo entrance or follow this link to learn more about the program.

Keep up to ‘due date’ as we share more in the coming weeks!

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Comments (2)

  1. Kate Brown

    So happy for Kio. I am a Bronx Zoo Docent and have known her all her life. Will really appreciate being able to follow her on line. Thanks so much for sharing. Kate Brown

  2. Kate Brown

    I always ask about her when I meet people from Calgary and at the Gorilla Conference every two years. Really, really happy for her and hope all goes well. Maybe a baby will keep her so busy she will pluck less. Wouldn’t that be nice! Was sad to see Kio and Dosi move so far away, but I know they have a good home in Calgary. KATE BROWN, Bronx Zoo Docent

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