ATLANTA – July 25, 2019 – Lulu, a 19-year-old western lowland gorilla, gave birth to an infant on July 24, 2019. The newborn is Lulu’s second surviving offspring and the eleventh for 30-year-old silverback Taz.
“Every animal birth is important, and there is an added cause for celebration when the birth is a critically endangered species like the western lowland gorilla,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Deputy Director. “We look forward to sharing the joy of watching another infant grow up in Taz’s family group in The Ford African Rain Forest, where our visitors can observe the maternal care, sibling interactions and family dynamics that make watching a troop of gorillas such a special experience.”
Every birth is crucial for western lowland gorillas. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over a 25-year period, the combined threats of poaching, illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade, habitat loss and emerging diseases such as Ebola have reduced their numbers by 60 percent in the wild, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa. Populations living within North American zoos are overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse gorilla population for future generations, and in which Zoo Atlanta is an active partner.
Lulu is the youngest of the five offspring of the late Willie B. Her newborn is the 24th gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest in 1988. In the more than 50 years since the arrival of the infant’s famous grandfather in 1961, the Zoo Atlanta gorilla program has evolved into a nationally recognized center of excellence in the care and study of gorillas.
Zoo Atlanta has been a significant conservation partner of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International for over 20 years, providing headquarters space, information technology and financial support for the organization. Over the years, the Zoo has also provided the Fossey Fund with board leadership and program support, as well as shared scientific team members.
Research by Zoo Atlanta team members has influenced industry-wide improvements in the care of gorillas in zoos, as well as enhanced the world’s understanding of gorillas, with more than 100 published papers on maternal care, reproduction, social behavior and cognition. Zoo Atlanta is the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first effort to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos. The Zoo is a Platinum Supporter of the AZA Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), a collective effort to preserve wild ape populations and to increase and sustain financial support from zoos for their conservation.
Now home to 19 individuals, Zoo Atlanta houses one of the largest populations of gorillas in North America. The Zoo is also home to two of the world’s oldest gorillas – female Choomba, 56, and Ozzie, the world’s oldest living male gorilla at 58 – and as such has become a leader in the emerging field of geriatric gorilla care. Gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of 40.
Plan a visit or learn more about the gorillas of Zoo Atlanta at zooatlanta.org.
About the gorilla program at Zoo Atlanta
The arrival of Zoo Atlanta’s most famous gorilla, the late Willie B., in 1961, evolved into what is today a nationally recognized program for the care and behavioral study of critically endangered western lowland gorillas. Twenty-four gorillas have been born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of the landmark Ford African Rain Forest in 1988, with all infants having been mother-reared or reared by a gorilla surrogate. In 2011, the 50th anniversary year of its gorilla program, Zoo Atlanta earned the distinguished Edward H. Bean Award for Significant Achievement from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for its long-term commitment to the species. Research published by Zoo Atlanta staff has resulted in more than 100 scientific papers on gorilla behavior, biology, reproduction and care. Zoo Atlanta is the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first coordinated effort to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa. Zoo Atlanta’s primary partner in gorilla conservation, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, is headquartered at Zoo Atlanta and protects and supports gorillas and their habitats in Africa.
About Zoo Atlanta
A proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the gold standard for animal care and welfare, Zoo Atlanta has a mission to save wildlife and their habitats through conservation, research, education and engaging experiences. The Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Highlights include giant pandas, including Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the only giant panda twins in the U.S.; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Recent transformations include Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, home to more than 70 species in the world’s first LEED Gold-certified reptile and amphibian complex. Experiences include behind-the-scenes Wild Encounters with African lions, Aldabra giant tortoises, giant pandas and lemurs. Zoo Atlanta is open year-round with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Keeper Talks, interactive wildlife presentations, education programs and special events run year-round. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org.
Opening August 8: the all-new African Savanna, featuring new and expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, warthogs and meerkats. The African Savanna is part of the Zoo’s landmark Grand New View transformation. Future elements include Savanna Hall, a state-of-the-art special event destination, and a new grand entry plaza, opening in early 2020. For more on the Zoo’s mission and conservation programs and partnerships, visit zooatlanta.org/conservation or download the 2018 conservation report, Beyond the Zoo.