Zoo's Gladys now living with gorilla surrogate mom

Source: Cincinnati Zoo
Source: Cincinnati Zoo

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has announced that Gladys, the 5-month-old Western lowland gorilla who was rejected by her birth mother in Texas, is now living with her new gorilla surrogate mom.

Gladys began the introduction to her new mom, "M'Linzi" on Monday, June 17.  And after just over a week of bonding, staff at the Cincinnati Zoo are very positive that the two have bonded and will remain together.

For the last week, Cincinnati Zoo staff has watched as M'Linzi has carried Gladys gently from one area to the next, allowed Gladys to pick at her food, slept with Gladys for naps and overnight, watched as Gladys received her daily bottles, and comforted Gladys at any sign of distress.

In early June, after months of being raised around-the-clock by human surrogates, keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo recognized that Gladys was quickly achieving all of the significant milestones needed to begin thinking about introducing her to a gorilla mother.

Being a human surrogate to a baby gorilla has been no easy task.  Keepers lived with Gladys 24/7, teaching her to act and think like a gorilla.  They fed Gladys, held her to their chest and eventually even carried her on their backs.  They explored every nook of the exhibit areas, both inside and out, and were even seen knuckle-walking with Gladys in the yard.  During their 8-hour shifts they wore all black scrubs and black faux fur vests, to imitate gorilla fur and they even vocalized like a gorilla, teaching Gladys exactly what the different sounds mean.

M'Linzi was born at the Cincinnati Zoo on December 7, 1982 to mother, "Amani" and father, "Ramses." On August 13, 1995 M'Linzi gave birth to daughter "Mara" and was the perfect mother. Mara still resides at the Cincinnati Zoo today.

On January 29, the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, welcomed a 4.7 pound, female gorilla - Gladys. After the birth, mother, 14 -year-old "Kiazi," didn't respond well and rejected the infant.  This behavior, which occasionally happens in first-time mothers, resulted in keepers from the Gladys Porter Zoo stepping in to hand-rear the infant until they had a plan in place. Unfortunately, all of the viable surrogates there already had young gorillas, so they began to look elsewhere.  After countless phone calls with the Gladys Porter Zoo, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Maternal Management Committee and the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) Committee, the Cincinnati Zoo was determined to be the best home for the baby.

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