NEW ORLEANS, La. – A critically endangered gorilla that was born at a New Orleans zoo just six days ago has died.
The Audubon Zoo says its animal care staff noticed Wednesday evening that the infant western lowland gorilla seemed lethargic and weak in the arms of its mother, 13-year-old Tumani. The young gorilla was transferred to the zoo’s animal hospital, but the veterinarian team could not revive it.
The zoo says Tumani is currently being monitored by the veterinary team and the entire troop was given the opportunity to grieve the loss of the infant.
The zoo says it took extra precautions leading up to the birth, working with Tumani on maternal training to prepare her to be comfortable with the possibility of staff assisting her with feeding or caring for the infant.
“There are many risks involved with gorilla births and unfortunately, it is not unusual for a first-time gorilla mom to lose an offspring,” said Dr. MacLean, Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian, in a press release. “Our veterinary team worked with outside medical experts on site including Species Survival Plan Gorilla Birth Management Team, OB-Gyns, and neonatologist to help us prepare and manage this birth.”
The mother and baby initially appeared to be doing very well, according to the zoo. Animal care staff were closely monitoring the infant’s health to ensure that mother and baby received the care needed. The infant reportedly appeared to be feeding and progressing well.
The zoo says the cause of death is underdetermined at this time. Initially, officials say it appears that there was a lack of adequate lactation from Tumani to support the infant, but they plan to perform a necropsy to determine cause of death. Results will be available in a few weeks.
“We are heartbroken over the loss,” said Ron Forman, Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO. “This has been a work in progress for many years, from the introduction of the new troop members to the announcement of the birth, everyone involved has worked tirelessly. I am incredibly proud of our team. We will continue to contribute to the conservation of this amazing species.”
Many gorilla populations have declined or disappeared over the past few decades. Western lowland gorillas have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, with a population decline of more than 80%, mainly due to illegal hunting, disease, habitat loss, and an increase in poaching.