The Calgary Zoo announced that one of their gorillas became an expectant mother this week.
Dossi, a 20-year-old gorilla that is part of the Zoo’s troop, is expecting her first baby to be born sometime between late April to early May of next year.
The troop’s silverback leader, Jasiri, a 23-year-old originally from the Atlanta Zoo, is the father.
“We’re all so excited and happy for this,” said Kim Walker, animal care manager, rainforest and South Americas, for the Calgary Zoo.
The upcoming birth is part of the overall species survival plan that The Wilder Institute, parent foundation for the Calgary Zoo, has been involved in.
Caring for Dossi through her first pregnancy
Dossi will be staying with the troop as she gives birth, the same as she would be if she was in the wild.
“We’re being cautiously optimistic and setting up Dossi and the entire troop for the most success for this pregnancy,” said Walker.
“We are going to leave her with the troop because that is easier and less stressful on her, and that is totally natural and what happens in the wild as well,” she said.
According to the Zoo, gorilla pregnancies are often more likely to be unsuccessful the first time.
Yewande, another one of the Zoo’s female troop members gave birth earlier this year in March, but the baby did not survive.
Starting in mid-March Dossi will be observed by gorilla technicians 24/7 for any behavioural changes or other indications that she is entering labour.
“We will be of course alerting of that team if we see anything that looks like she possibly had water break or anything like that,” said Walker.
Not your average Tinder romance
Mating between Dossi and Jasiri was part of the careful species survival plan for Gorillas.
More than 80 per cent of wild Gorillas have been decimated by deforestation and mining.
The next category down from critically endangered is extinct in the wild.
“Dossi was on a breeding requisition with a species survival program that specifically said that they wanted Jasiri, a male Silverback, to breed with either Dossi or Yewande,” said Walker.
Selecting Jasiri to move from the Atlanta Zoo to the Calgary Zoo meant making sure he would be the right mate for the Zoo’s female troop members.
Making sure that Jasiri and Dossi were genetically diverse to preserve genetic diversity in gorilla population was a major concern.
“It’s kind of like a dating service—we say genetically—where they look at to give the best genetic diversity in the population under human care, that they will line up certain males with certain females,” said Walker.
Another factor was whether Jasiri would be a good father and integrate well with younger members of the Zoo’s troop.
“Jasiri actually was around a lot of juveniles at a previous facility, and he was very calm with them, so that’s why another reason he came here,” she said.
Getting to know the troop throughout the pregnancy
Besides Dossi, Jasiri, and Yewande, the troop has another three members: Kioja, Zuri, and Kimani.
Visitors to the Zoo will be able to see the Gorillas in their habitat, but for those unable to make it to the Zoo, they plan on providing regular updates on their website and through social media channels.
“Dossi is going through a lot of changes to which affects the rest of the troop, so just keep an eye on our social media channels and our website for a lot of exciting announcements,” Walker said.