Tiny critically endangered gorilla baby born in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A tiny baby gorilla has been born at the zoo in New Orleans.

Keepers do not yet know the sex of the critically endangered western lowland gorilla born on Friday to 13-year-old Tumani and father Okpara, Audubon Zoo spokeswoman Katie Smith said in an email.

“Tumani is demonstrating excellent mothering behaviours and the entire troop is doing exceptionally well,” Smith said.

She said keepers first saw the baby during their morning check on Friday. Gorilla babies weigh about 1.8 kilogrammes at birth, and photos and video from the zoo show 13-year-old mom Tumani cuddling her tiny newborn. Photos show the baby held in her arms without using her hands.

“Gorilla mothers vary on how they carry their infants. Some even carry football style,” Smith wrote. “In the beginning, she was keeping it close to her mouth to clean. She is carrying it differently now. She is supporting it more on its backside and keeping it low so that it can nurse.”

Although the birth was about two weeks after what the zoo put as the last likely due date, keepers were not worried, Smith said, since the dates were based on observed matings.

Once keepers knew Tumani was pregnant, she was trained to carry a baby using a “doll” made from firehose canvas.

Native to central Africa, western lowland gorillas were declared critically endangered in 2007 because of habitat loss as well as deaths caused by the Ebola virus and hunters who killed them illegally for their meat.

Tumani, a critically endangered western lowland gorilla holds her newborn at an enclosure at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. PHOTO: AP