Baby gorilla born at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium


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Don't break out the pink or blue cigars yet.

The little gorilla baby born early Feb. 9 to Moka, the mom, and Mrithi, the dad, is definitely cute. But even though zookeepers at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium think the week-old primate is a boy, they aren't completely sure yet.

That hasn't stopped them from celebrating the arrival of the first gorilla born at the zoo since 2001.

"It's very exciting, because you just forget how little they are and how cute," said gorilla keeper Roseann Giambro. "I'm very excited."

It's the first child for both Moka, a 15-year-old female brought here from the Miami zoo in 2007 and Mrithi, a 20-year-old male who was the first gorilla born at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Mrithi is the lead silverback of the zoo's gorilla troupe.

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The two western lowland gorillas were not interested in each other at first, but after some coaxing they began breeding, Ms. Giambro said. They've been courting for the past year and a half, and Moka likely became pregnant in May or June. Gestation time for a baby gorilla is 8 to 81/2 months.

In the past few months, Moka put on a "considerable amount of weight" and seemed crabby and tired at times, Ms. Giambro said.

When employees left the zoo the night of Feb. 8, there were six gorillas. The next morning, there were seven. Ms. Giambro arrived to find Moka had already cleaned her baby and was taking care of him or her.

"There's always that fear that maybe the mom won't have milk, or she won't allow the baby to nurse, but Moka is doing just beautifully," Ms. Giambro said.

Zoo officials will not take the baby away from Moka, so they have not checked the baby's gender or weighed it, but Ms. Giambro said the newborn is likely three to five pounds. Zoo employees will try to figure out the baby's gender through observation and then will give him or her a name.

The five other gorillas in the exhibit have been quietly observing the new mother and her baby from a respectful distance. Ms. Giambro said Thursday that Moka gently pushed away Mrithi, the dad, as he tried to sniff the baby.

In the Tropical Forest exhibit Thursday morning, Moka cradled and nursed her little one.

The new arrival is on display for the public to see. For the first few months, visitors will see the baby sleeping and nursing, as a human infant would. By six months, physical maturation for a gorilla outpaces a human. Around August, visitors should see the baby riding on Moka's back.


Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. First Published February 17, 2012 5:00 AM


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