2 MARCH 2023 (Calgary, AB) – The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo’s littlest gorilla, ‘Eyare’, may soon be giving up her title as the youngest member of the troop. ‘Yewande’, the zoo’s beloved 14-year-old western lowland gorilla, is expecting!
This exciting news means that 10-month-old Eyare may soon be a big (half) sister and the zoo’s eldest troop member, ‘Zuri’ (25 years old), will be a grandmother. Yewande’s due date is expected in late Spring so the zoo’s official “baby watch” will commence in May until the infant is born.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the birth as this is the second time that Yewande and ‘Jasiri’ have successfully conceived. Unfortunately, Yewande’s first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth which can sometimes happen with first-time gorilla pregnancies despite us doing everything we can to prepare,” said Kim Walker, Animal Care Manager (South America/Rainforest) at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo. “There are several challenges ahead of us to ensure Yewande delivers a healthy infant and navigates troop family dynamics, but the Animal Care, Health & Welfare team will be helping her every moment that we can along the way.”
In advance of the birth, the zoo’s Animal Care, Health & Welfare team will continue with extensive training with Yewande to help her be comfortable once the baby arrives. Direct intervention will only occur if the mother’s or baby’s health and well-being are compromised.
The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo is a proud supporter of gorilla conservation and has had gorillas in its care for more than 50 years. As part of the gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), the entire captive gorilla population is very carefully managed to ensure a wide and well-represented gene pool. As with all SSPs, an accredited zoo must first receive a breeding recommendation before the breeding process starts. The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo’s previous beloved silverback, ‘Kakinga’, passed away in 2016 due to a cardiac event. In 2019, after careful evaluation of the SSP’s recommendation by the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo team, the zoo was thrilled to welcome Jasiri as the troop’s new silverback. Jasiri was given a breeding recommendation with both Dossi and Yewande. The successful conceptions are a positive step forward in the conservation efforts to save this incredible species.
Wild gorilla populations have decreased by more than 80% over the past 30 years due to poaching and habitat destruction, mostly for the mineral coltan which is used in cell phone production. This birth represents important genetic diversity within the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Program (SSP). As a critically endangered species, a healthy population in human care acts as an assurance population for gorilla survival into the future.
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