ASHEBORO Visitors will soon line up to see a new baby gorilla that became the latest addition Saturday to the North Carolina Zoo.
The healthy male gorilla, just the second gorilla birth at the zoo, was born around 8 a.m. in front of some very excited zookeepers. Zoo officials say the still-unnamed baby and his 12-year-old mother, Jamani, will be accepting visitors at the ever-popular gorilla exhibit.
Just be prepared for a wait.
“We’re expecting a lot of people to want to see the baby,” said Tom Gillespie, a zoo spokesman.
The zoo is working from experience. Attendance increased by 80,000 visitors in the first year after the birth in March 1989 of Kwanza, a male gorilla.
The additional visitors would provide a welcome financial infusion to the zoo, which has dealt with budget challenges in recent years.
“People like to see baby animals,” Gillespie said. “The more high-profile it is, the more people want to come.”
Kwanza was transferred in 1998 to Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago as part of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Rare successful birth
Over the years, the zoo has tried for another gorilla birth. Jamani came to the zoo in January 2010 from the San Diego Zoo. In June 2011, Jamani’s first pregnancy ended with a stillborn.
The zoo could get a double helping of baby gorilla fans later in the year. Another gorilla at the zoo, 16-year-old Olympia, is pregnant and expected to give birth in November.
It would be highly unusual to have so many births at the same zoo in a year. Gorilla births in captivity are rare.
Currently, there are only about 350 gorillas in 52 accredited zoos, with just four successful births out of eight pregnancies recorded during 2011 and early 2012.
Saturday’s birth and the one in November both were recommended by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan.