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Keepers hope orphan gorilla Zahra warms quickly to new family in Columbus

POWELL (WCMH) – A nine-month-old orphaned gorilla will join her surrogate mother and the primate family at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.  

Zahra was born in September at the Milwaukee County Zoo and arrived in Columbus Wednesday.

Those big brown eyes are sure to melt hearts this summer.

“She wakes up, she eats, she plays, she sleeps. She wakes up, she eats, she plays, and she sleeps,” said Audra Meinelt, Curator of Congo Expedition at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

 Just like a typical human 9-month-old, Zahra is not shy and is loving all the new attention. 

“She's very active,” said Meinelt.

Her activity is a nice change to what zookeepers say was once a tough couple of months for the tiny primate. 

Her parents died in April. Their deaths in Milwaukee were linked to gastrointestinal infections caused by E.Coli in their water supply. 

Zahra has been in the care of humans ever since, but soon she'll get a new mother and three siblings. 

“She is ready to be back with gorillas so we are hoping this is going to be a very quick process of reintegrating here with a family group,” said Meinelt.

One and a half-year-old JJ, 3-year-old Kamina and 5-year old-Kamoli will be her new big brothers and sister - along with five other western lowland gorillas. 

Fans of the Congo Expedition are thrilled. 

The Columbus Zoo has been a pioneer of gorilla surrogacy for more than 30 years, having raised 16 baby gorillas through its program. 

Zahra's caregivers say they are not sure when she will make her debut to the public, but when she does, it will be a grand one.


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