Critically endangered gorilla infant dies in New Orleans zoo

Posted by Imogen Searra on 11 September 2020

Six days after a critically endangered western lowland gorilla named Tumani (13) gave birth at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, her baby passed away.

The infant was born on September 4 and passed away on September 10. This was the first gorilla to be born at the zoo in over 24 years, and was Tumani’s first offspring.

The cause of death is still to be determined but staff noticed the baby was growing weak and lethargic. It is believed that Tumani did not produce enough milk to sustain the infant but a necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

In a statement, the zoo said after noticing the infant’s condition, they worked quickly to get it to the Zoo’s animal hospital.

‘The infant was transferred to the Zoo’s animal hospital, but the veterinarian team could not revive the infant. Tumani is currently being monitored by Audubon’s veterinary team and the entire troop was given the opportunity to grieve the loss of the infant.

‘Audubon took extra precautions leading up to the birth, working with Tumani on maternal training to prepare her to be comfortable with the possibility of staff assisting her with feeding or caring for the infant. To prevent undo stress on a new mother and to encourage necessary bonding time, animal care staff and veterinarians do not intervene unless absolutely necessary.’

Dr. MacLean, Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian said: ‘There are many risks involved with gorilla births and unfortunately, it is not unusual for a first-time gorilla mom to lose an offspring. Our veterinary team worked with outside medical experts on site including Species Survival Plan Gorilla Birth Management Team, OB-Gyns, and neonatologist to help us prepare and manage this birth.’

Ron Forman, Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO said: ‘We are heartbroken over the loss. This has been a work in progress for many years, from the introduction of the new troop members to the announcement of the birth, everyone involved has worked tirelessly. I am incredibly proud of our team. We will continue to contribute to the conservation of this amazing species.’

‘It has been reported that in the wild 42% of western gorilla mortality rates happen in the first year of life,’ said Audubon’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office Dr. Kyle Burks, PhD, Animal Behavior.

‘It’s very difficult to lose an animal in our care, but we understand the significance of this birth and the pivotal role Audubon and fellow AZA-accredited zoos play in saving this critically endangered species from extinction.’

Image credit: Audubon Nature Institute

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