CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Asha, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's 11-year-old western lowland gorilla, became a new mom Monday morning.
Zoo staff said Asha gave birth at 8:15 a.m. to a healthy, 5 pound baby gorilla in her indoor stall. Mom and baby will spend time bonding indoors, but zoo officials said if they continue to do well and the weather cooperates, the pair will be outside soon.
Whether Asha gave birth to a male or female is still to be determined.
"Because Asha is being such a good mom, holding this little one close, nursing, and gently cleaning the baby, we have not yet been able to determine the sex," said Zoo Executive Director Thane Maynard. "The baby appears very healthy, strong, and active and we could not be more pleased with how Asha is handling her new role as mom."
The Cincinnati Zoo is now home to nine western lowland gorillas, including the father, silverback Jomo, and the rest of his family, Samantha, M'Linzi, Anju, and Gladys.
This is the 49th gorilla born at the zoo. This is also Jomo's second baby, with his first being Bakari, a male gorilla born August 13, 2006.
"I am a lucky guy. I have had the very rare privilege to work with the gorillas at the Cincinnati zoo for almost 30 years and have been present for many great events, including dozens of births," said Ron Evans, Curator of Primates at the Cincinnati Zoo. "However, this baby is very special as it marks the rebirth of the Cincinnati Zoo's gorilla propagation program after an eight year intentional hiatus."
There are about 765 gorillas in zoos worldwide. Western Lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 of the species.
"Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink," according to a release from the zoo. "The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year."
Read additional information about the zoo's wild gorilla conservation effort at www.cincinnatizoo.org.