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Columbus Zoo And Aquarium Welcomes An Orphaned Gorilla, Zahra

There are few things I love in this world more than baby animals.

It doesn’t matter if they grow up to be massive or somewhat terrifying. If it’s in baby form, I’m all about it. And the queen of all baby animals, in my opinion, is the gorilla. They’re fuzzy and sweet and they like to play and they’re totally the most adorable things ever.

A brand new babe has come to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Zahra was born at the Milwaukee County Zoo last September, but after her parents passed away in April, she was orphaned. Although she’s had a human rearing team, no one can raise a baby gorilla better than a momma gorilla!

Photo by Grahm S. Jones

After some deliberation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, it was decided that the best option for Zahra was to become part of a surrogate family unit, with a surrogate mother, a tolerant silverback male, and other females with offspring of varying ages.

“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.”

Photo by Grahm S. Jones

For now, Zahra will be under 24/7 care by the Zoo’s human-assisted rearing team until she can meet her surrogate mother, which the Zoo hopes will be very soon. Nine gorillas at the Columbus Zoo have been raised in the surrogacy program and seven additional gorillas, including Zahra, have come from other zoos.

Although no final decisions have been made yet, Zahra will likely become a part of silverback Mac’s troop, which consists of females, Kinyani, Mo’Ana, Toni, Tabibu, and 3-year-old Kamina, and young males, Kamoli, who is 5 years old, and JJ, who will soon be turning 2 years old.

“There are many important details to consider in gorilla surrogacy, and we are proud to offer our animal care team’s expertise, care, and commitment to ensure that Zahra’s well-being continues to be top priority,” said Columbus Zoo President/CEO Tom Stalf.

“In addition the great care the Milwaukee County Zoo team provided to Zahra and now our animal care team’s assistance, the surrogate mother and her troop will have their own integral role. While Zahra has already experienced tough challenges in her young life, she is being placed in a caring environment where she can thrive physically and socially while also helping to contribute to the success story for the future of this incredible species that continues to face many threats in their native range.”

Welcome to Columbus, Zahra! We’re so happy to have you.

Photo by Grahm S. Jones

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