We're thrilled to announce that our 6-month old female gorilla is now on view to the public at the Jones Family Gorilla Preserve. Over the last month, the care of the infant has slowly been transitioned from Zoo animal staff to the infant’s western lowland gorilla family. These important introductions began with the matriarch of the six-member troop, 33-year old Bawang, who eagerly served as surrogate mother to five-year old male Hasani under similar circumstances. As predicted, Bawang instantly assumed the role of adoptive mother of the infant and they have been together ever since. Under Bawang’s careful supervision, each gorilla has made the little one’s acquaintance and each one has expressed their curiosity and affection in their own way. Big brother, Hasani, is particularly excited to have received a baby sister for his fifth birthday, which was on December 8. He is often seen playfully engaging with the infant under the watchful eye of the troop’s females. Once again, Bawang has taken on the huge responsibility of motherhood and has set a positive tone for the troop. We feel very blessed to be able to contribute to the population of this critically endangered species and we feel especially grateful to introduce the entire gorilla family to the public. Watch this video of Kabibe and her family.
We celebrate this momentous occasion by announcing that "Kabibe" is the winner of our public naming contest. Meaning "little lady" in Swahili, Kabibe was the favorite of the three finalist names, which also included Malaika, which means "heavenly messenger" in Swahili; and Kenura, which means "joy" in Kikuyu. The public donated $1 per vote for their favorite name, which will go toward gorilla care and conservation.
Please come get to know our little lady in person and enjoy a visit with her proud big brother, Hasani, too.
About the infant
On July 17 at 2:00 p.m., a 5-pound, 1-ounce healthy female western lowland gorilla was born to parents Nneka (Ni-NEE-ka) and Oscar Jonesy. This is the first birth for mother Nneka and the second sired by silverback Oscar Jonesy. The previous gorilla birth at the SF Zoo was in 2008 when Hasani, the now four-year old male, was born to Monifa and Oscar Jonesy.
First-time mother Nneka is a 14-year old western lowland gorilla who was born at the SF Zoo. Her name translates as “mother is supreme” in the Nigerian language of Obo. According to primate keepers, she had an easy pregnancy and enjoyed extra treats of potatoes and romaine lettuce during her nine- month gestation. Nneka is the offspring of the Zoo’s female gorilla Bawang and its former silverback Mkubwa.
As part of the Zoo’s Wellness Initiative, Nneka was trained to participate in her own health care during her pregnancy by receiving awake ultrasounds to track her fetal gestation. Historically, gorillas are anesthetized to conduct such a test. Awake ultrasound exams are performed on a variety of species at the zoo and are preferred because they avoid the risk and stress associated with anesthesia. Initially, Nneka accepted the external ultrasound probe without complaint but rejected it once the ultrasound gel was applied to the probe. Quick thinking keepers and veterinary staff realized that if they substituted apple sauce for the gel, they could get viable sonogram images and Nneka could have a treat when the scan was complete. Zoo staff now will work with Nneka to feed and take care of her baby.
About Oscar Jonesy
Oscar Jonesy, known to staff and visitors as “OJ,” is the SF Zoo’s impressive 330-pound silverback western lowland gorilla. He was born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and is 32-years old. OJ was named by former SF Zoo Board Chairman Rick Jones after his father and The Jones Family Gorilla Preserve is named in honor of the family. OJ is also the father of Hasani, the four-year old juvenile male gorilla born at the Zoo in 2008. A patient and loving father, OJ is the recipient of many of Hasani’s hijinks as the young gorilla learns what is appropriate behavior as a member of a larger gorilla troop. OJ offers Hasani guidance and models the dignified behavior of a mature silverback so that Hasani can learn to lead his own troop in the future.
About western lowland gorillas
The western lowland gorilla (scientific name: Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is a critically endangered species. Found in Africa with populations in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, the actual number of gorillas in the wild is unknown due to their habitation in some of the world’s densest and most remote rainforest regions. These gorillas can weigh up to 440 pounds and stand four to five feet when standing upright on two feet. According to the World Wildlife Fund, poaching, habitat destruction and diseases such as the Ebola virus have contributed to the decline of the species by 60 percent over the past 25 years. The WWF estimates that if their threats were removed, it would take at least 75 years for the species to recover. A wild gorilla’s average lifespan is approximately 35 years and a gorilla in captivity is estimated to live for 40-50 years. There are currently 342 western lowland gorillas at 53 AZA-accredited zoos North America.
Western lowland gorillas are the smallest of the four gorilla subspecies with a brownish-grey coat with red highlights. Adult males have silver-colored fur on their backs and legs, which is the origin of the name silverback. They are herbivores and enjoy plant-based diets that include fruit, vegetables, leaf-based browse, bark, grain and tubers. They live in family groups called troops averaging four to six members that are led by a dominant older male and consist of multiple females, juveniles and young males. Females begin reproduction at age nine or ten and do not produce many offspring. Female gorillas have a pregnancy term of nearly nine months and usually give birth to one infant. The infant will be held by its mother or ride on her back for approximately one year.