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A Devastating Loss for our Western Lowland Gorilla Troop

Posted on March 26

Calgary, AB – In the early morning hours of Monday, western lowland gorilla Mom-to-be "Yewande" gave birth to a male gorilla infant. Sadly, the gorilla infant did not survive the birthing process. 

Calculations of gestation length based on breeding dates and measurements taken at ultrasound examinations during pregnancy suggest that this baby may have been premature. We hope to learn more information in the coming weeks.

12-year old Yewande had a breeding recommendation with 22-year old Silverback “Jasiri” in hopes of preserving valuable genetic diversity as part of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums’s (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for western lowland gorillas.

The Calgary Zoo team had been cautiously optimistic about the birth of a baby gorilla, acknowledging that first time gorilla mothers and fathers sometimes don’t have a successful birth the first time. The last gorilla birth at the Calgary Zoo was “Kimani”, who turned 5 earlier this month.

“Our Animal Care and Veterinary teams did everything possible to prepare Yewande and the troop for a successful birth, and we are saddened by the outcome,” said Jamie Dorgan Director of Animal Care, Health & Welfare at the Calgary Zoo. “We are focused on supporting the troop, especially Yewande, and the Animal Care staff are focused on caring for the gorilla troop daily, in every way possible as they grieve this loss in the days and weeks to come.”

Yewande was born May 15, 2008 at the Calgary Zoo to Zuri, a longtime resident of the Calgary Zoo’s western lowland gorilla troop. The silverback (Dad), Jasiri, came to the Calgary Zoo in June 2019 from Zoo Atlanta where he was born. 

The Calgary Zoo’s indoor animal habitats and buildings, including the Rainforest building where the western lowland gorillas reside, remain closed to support public health directives. The outdoor gorilla amphitheatre will be closed to the public for the next week to give the troop time to heal.

The Calgary Zoo’s western lowland gorilla troop is adored by people around the world. We know this loss will be felt by many, especially our staff, volunteers and donors.

We encourage our community to consider donating small hand-held devices to the Calgary Zoo to donate to the Gorillas on the Line initiative, which protects wild gorilla habitats. A critical component of phones and other small electronics is a substance called coltan. One of the few places in the world where coltan is found is right in the middle of gorilla habitat. As a result of mining for coltan, critical habitat has been destroyed and gorillas have been displaced or even killed by poachers. Recycling old cell phones helps reduce the demand for coltan and protects gorilla habitat in Africa.

About western lowland gorillas
Western lowland gorillas are Critically Endangered. Due to poaching and disease, the gorilla's numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20-25 years. Populations can be found in the wild in Cameroon, the Central Africa Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.