Adorable baby gorilla faces tough start at zoo after mom's rejection

Seattle, Washington - A new baby gorilla born at the Woodland Park Zoo hasn't had an easy start. His mama isn't interested in taking care of him, so the zoo's care team is currently rearing the baby animal by hand.

The baby was born last week and does not yet have a name.
The baby was born last week and does not yet have a name.  © Rachel Vass/Woodland Park Zoo

After nine months of waiting, Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo's 22-year-old gorilla, Akenji, gave birth to her first baby on July 1, 2024.

She welcomed a baby boy naturally, per the zoo's blog. While keepers were thrilled with the baby's above-average birth weight health, sadly, the neonatal team had to remove the baby just an hour after delivery.

"The average weight for a gorilla at birth is 4 pounds and we're pleased to report our new boy weighs 4.4 pounds. His vital signs are good, and he is healthy and physically normal," Associate Veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo Dr. Yousuf Jafarey said.

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The team intervened for the baby's safety and well-being, as Akenji didn't show the appropriate maternal behavior. Since the baby's birth, the team has provided around-the-clock care while still giving Akenji chances to bond with her baby.

"Although we have been encouraging maternal behaviors, Akenji still hasn't shown any promising signs of interest in bonding with her baby. Because she demonstrated capable maternal behaviors throughout her training program, we're disappointed and a little surprised those instincts haven't kicked in," Interim Animal Care Manager at Woodland Park Zoo Rachel Vass said.

Akenji has returned to the enclosure with her family and the other gorillas, but the keepers are not ready to give up.

Zoo is still hoping the mama gorilla will bond with her son

Zookeepers still hope that this baby gorilla's mother will accept him.
Zookeepers still hope that this baby gorilla's mother will accept him.  © Rachel Vass/Woodland Park Zoo

The zoo's care team plans to continue raising the yet-to-be-named baby by hand while giving the mama more chances to bond.

If this proves unsuccessful, they'll consider surrogacy options.

"The present situation calls for us to exercise patience and be methodical as we move forward with this new member of our gorilla family," Martin Ramirez, the Interim Senior Director of Animal Care at Woodland Park Zoo, said.

Hopefully, Akenji's maternal instincts will kick in, and this baby's life will get a little easier!

Cover photo: Collage: Rachel Vass/Woodland Park Zoo & Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

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