Yewande, one of the members of the The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo’s western lowland gorilla troop, is expecting.
The pregnancy is Yewande’s second to dad-to-be Jasiri, and the zoo said they are cautiously optimistic about this birth.
Her first ended in a stillbirth, which is not uncommon for first-time pregnancies among western lowland gorillas.
“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 for South America and 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 and Welfare team will be helping her every moment that we can along the way.”
Walker told LWC that although the zoo knew of the pregnancy several months ago, they have been monitoring Yewande’s progress before making the pregnancy public.
“We did three ultrasounds beforehand, but unfortunately, we’re unable to see the fetus because it was too small at that time. It was too low down, so it took us a little time to be able to get a proper positioning to see the fetus,” she said.
The zoo’s team will be doing extensive training with Yewande prior to the birth to make her comfortable with the new arrival. The zoo only intervenes in birth if the mother or baby’s health is threatened.
A successful birth will add another young gorilla to troop
Jasiri was welcomed to the zoo in 2019 as part of the efforts to increase genetic diversity among the captive gorilla population at zoos across the world.
The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo is an accredited member of the gorilla Special Survival Plan, and the zoo said that a healthy birth continues to act “as an assurance population for gorilla survival into the future.”
The zoo welcomed its newest gorilla member just 10 months ago after Dossi successfully birthed baby Eyare. Jasiri was also the father of that baby.
Walker said that the most exciting part of the birth will be to see the two newest members of the troop grow up together.
“As you can see, [Eyare is] so active and playful right now. She’ll have another young gorilla to play with, so it’ll be so stimulating for her and so enriching. It’s gonna be fabulous for little Eyare.”
Zuri, the troop’s oldest member at 25, will become a grandmother if Yewande’s birth is successful.
Populations of gorillas have declined more than 80 per cent over the last 30 years, as a result of habitat destruction, resource extraction and gorilla poaching.