Columbus Zoo welcomes young orphaned gorilla

Local News
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POWELL, OH (WCMH) — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has welcomed a new baby gorilla into its surrogacy program.

According to the zoo, Zahra was born September 9, 2017 at the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin, but was transferred to Columbus after bother her mother and father died last April. 

Since her parents deaths, Zahra has been participating in human-assisted rearing with the animal care team in Milwaukee, who have stayed with her around the clock. 

With the goal to have Zahra raised as part of a gorilla family, the Milwaukee County Zoo animal care team consulted with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan ® (SSP).

The SSP recommended that Zahra be placed at another zoo that houses a stable family unit consisting of a female gorilla to act as a surrogate mother, a tolerant silverback male, and other females with offspring of varying ages. The SSP, which includes institutional representatives from other participating facilities, worked in collaboration with the Milwaukee County Zoo and Columbus Zoo and decided it would be in Zahra’s best interests to be introduced into the Columbus Zoo’s successful surrogacy program to give Zahra an opportunity to develop, grow and thrive in the years ahead.

“This is really the best option for Zahra, and we’re excited to see her start a new chapter in her life, and set her up as best we can so she continues to develop into a fully functioning adult gorilla,” said Milwaukee County Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser. “The Columbus Zoo has an excellent reputation for surrogate-raising gorillas, and will serve as the best, supportive home for Zahra’s growth, development and long-term care.”

Zahra will be under constant care by the Columbus Zoo’s human assisted rearing team until introductions with a potential surrogate mother begin.

While the Zoo’s animal care team will also take cues from Zahra to determine when she’s ready to transition into each important phase, the goal is to place her with the surrogate as quickly as possible so she can be with other gorillas. 

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been a pioneer of gorilla surrogacy for more than 30 years.

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