Western lowland gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta
Monday, September 19, 2016


Granddaughter of Willie B. is the world’s newest ambassador for a critically endangered species

Kudzoo, a 22-year-old western lowland gorilla, gave birth to a female infant during the afternoon of September 18, 2016. The newborn is the third offspring of Kudzoo and 27-year-old silverback Taz and is a granddaughter of Kudzoo’s famous father, the late Willie B. 

“We’re delighted to welcome a new member to the gorilla families of The Ford African Rain Forest. This birth is more than another milestone in the continuing legacy of the gorilla program at Zoo Atlanta,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “Kudzoo’s baby is the newest ambassador for a species that ranks among our planet’s most endangered wildlife.” 

The western lowland gorilla is classified as critically endangered. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over a 25-year period, the combined threats of poaching, illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade, habitat loss and emerging diseases such as Ebola have reduced western lowland gorilla populations by 60 percent, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa. Populations living within North American zoos are overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse gorilla population for future generations, and in which Zoo Atlanta is an active partner. 

Kudzoo’s newborn is the 23rd gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of the landmark Ford African Rain Forest in 1988. In 2011, the 50th anniversary year of its gorilla program, Zoo Atlanta received the prestigious Edward H. Bean Award for Significant Achievement from AZA for its long-term commitment to western lowland gorillas and training advancements for the species. Research by Zoo Atlanta staff has influenced industry-wide improvements in the care of gorillas in zoos, as well as enhanced understanding of gorilla biology, with more than 100 published papers on maternal care, reproduction, social behavior and cognition. Zoo Atlanta is the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first effort to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos. Zoo Atlanta also serves as the headquarters of its primary partner in gorilla conservation, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, and the Zoo provides pro-bono space and resources to support the Fossey Fund’s work in the field for gorillas and their habitats in Africa. The Zoo and the Fossey Fund celebrated 20 years of partnership in 2015. 

Now home to 21 individuals, Zoo Atlanta houses one of the largest populations of gorillas in North America. The Zoo is also home to three of the world’s oldest gorillas – the newborn’s paternal grandmother, Shamba, 57; maternal grandmother, Choomba, 53; and 55-year-old Ozzie, the oldest living male gorilla in the world – and has become a leader in the emerging field of geriatric gorilla care. 

Zoo Members and guests should be on the lookout for the tiny new arrival and her mother in their habitat in The Ford African Rain Forest, weather permitting.