The first gorilla born at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium in more than a decade died over the weekend, but it could be several weeks before zoo officials discover the primate's cause of death.
The baby, a male who had not yet been given a name, was just short of 4 months old.
"We are mourning the loss," Barbara Baker, the zoo's president and chief executive officer, said in a phone interview Monday.
Zoo employees on Friday noticed that the gorilla infant seemed lethargic and weak in the arms of his mother, Moka. The infant was transferred to the zoo's new Animal Care Center, a medical facility that opened last month.
The zoo said in a news release Monday that the animal showed similar signs of lethargy Wednesday after his grandmother had taken him from Moka. His condition improved after zoo staff separated him from his grandmother and he ate and drank.
He did not recover from the most recent episode of lethargy. The baby gorilla had no signs of external injuries, but on Friday zoo officials discovered he was hypothermic with low blood sugar and had gone into respiratory arrest. Veterinarians worked for 10 hours to revive the gorilla, but he went into cardiac and respiratory arrest. The gorilla died early Saturday morning.
It is not unusual for first-time gorilla moms, such as Moka, to lose their babies, especially in the first six months of life, Ms. Baker said. The baby gorillas may die because their mothers do not know how to take care of them or may not have enough milk to sustain them.
But Moka appeared to be doing a good job at being a mom for the first time, Ms. Baker said. She cleaned her baby after he was born and had been nursing and quietly cradling her little one in the Tropical Forest exhibit.
The zoo performed a necropsy, an autopsy performed on animals, and the results will be available in a few weeks.
When the baby was born Feb. 9, he was the first gorilla born at the zoo since 2001, and the first offspring born to Moka, a 15-year-old female brought to Pittsburgh 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 troop, which is made up of six gorillas.
Ms. Baker said Monday that Moka is doing well and has returned to the troop.
Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707. First Published June 5, 2012 4:00 AM