From the Audubon Nature Institute
A critically endangered western lowland gorilla was born in the morning hours of Sept. 4 at the Audubon Zoo. This is the first gorilla birth at at the zoo in 24 years and the first offspring for 13-year-old Tumani.
Mother and baby are doing well, zoo officials report. Animal care staff are closely monitoring the infant’s health to ensure that mother and baby are receiving the care needed.
“This is a momentous occasion for Audubon Zoo,” said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “We are thrilled to share this birth with our New Orleans community and contribute to the conservation efforts of this critically endangered species.”
This birth is the result of successful breeding between 13-year-old Tumani and Okpara, a 27-year-old silverback gorilla, who came to Audubon from Franklin Park Zoo in 2017. This is Tumani and Okpara’s first offspring.
Audubon Zoo’s gorillas are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. The Gorilla Species Survival Plan manages 354 gorillas in 48 North American zoos to ensure a genetically diverse population and the long-term sustainability of the species.
Many gorilla populations have declined or disappeared over the past few decades. Western lowland gorillas have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, with a population decline of more than 80%, mainly due to illegal hunting, disease, habitat loss and an increase in poaching.
Audubon Zoo reopened on June 3, 2020, following a nearly three-month closure and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas reopened on July 16, 2020, following a four-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Children’s Hospital New Orleans is thrilled to celebrate the arrival of the baby gorilla with our partners at Audubon Zoo,” said John R. Nickens IV, president and chief executive officer at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, which partnered with the Audubon and the New Orleans Pelicans to reopen the zoo and the aquarium. “The gift of new life during this challenging time is inspiring and uplifting. We look forward to watching the new baby learn and grow through each important milestone.”
Audubon is one of a handful of the nation’s top nonprofit zoos and aquariums that are ineligible to benefit from any of the forgivable COVID-19 relief packages because of its pre-COVID number of employees and annual revenue.
“While Audubon facilities were closed, the estimated loss of revenue directly generated by visitors to our facilities during March to June is approximately $21 million,” said Forman. “We are committed to making a positive impact on the natural world by helping to save species, such as the critically endangered western lowland gorilla, but continuing our conservation efforts comes at a steep financial cost.”
Audubon is continuing to care for and feed 15,000 animals and aquatic species, many of whom represent some of the very last species of their kind on Earth.
The World of Primates section of Audubon Zoo will be closed while Tumani, infant, and the troop bond. The zoo anticipates reopening World of Primates as soon as animal care staff feel that mother and infant have properly bonded. All gorillas will have access to their outdoor habitat, so guests may catch a glimpse of the new addition during their zoo visit once World of Primates has reopened.
Guests can spot the infant by a small white patch of hair on its rump. The patch will fade away when the gorilla reaches 3 to 4 years of age. This white patch helps mother gorillas keep track of infants and assists other group members in identifying the gorilla as an infant.
Audubon Zoo has created an online baby registry as a way for the public to get involved in the birth of the infant. Supporters can help shower Tumani and baby with nutritious food, engaging enrichment, and training materials carefully selected by Audubon Zoo’s animal care and veterinary team. Follow this link to access Tumani’s Baby Shower Registry: https://baby.audubonnatureinstitute.org/
The public can also support Audubon by advocating to include zoos and aquariums in future economic relief legislation, contributing to the Audubon Recovery Fund, purchasing an Audubon Membership, or visiting the Zoo and Aquarium. Advance tickets to the Zoo and Aquarium are required and can be reserved here.