The Audubon Zoo's 13-year-old western lowland gorilla Tumani welcomed her first baby on Sept. 4

By Gabrielle Chung
September 10, 2020 04:54 PM
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Tumani and her baby gorilla
Audubon Zoo

A zoo in New Orleans is in mourning after losing a baby gorilla less than a week after its birth.

The Audubon Zoo announced on Thursday that the 6-day-old infant born to their 13-year-old critically endangered western lowland gorilla, Tumani, has died. A cause of death was not released, but the zoo plans on performing a necropsy to find out how the offspring died.

The baby gorilla was the firstborn for Tumani and Okpara, 27-year-old silverback gorilla that was transferred to the Audubon Zoo from the Franklin Park Zoo in 2017. It was also the first gorilla birth at Audubon Zoo in 24 years.

Tumani and her baby gorilla
Audubon Zoo

Both mom and infant initially appeared to be doing very well days following the birth, but animal caretakers noticed that the youngster seemed "lethargic and weak in the arms of the mother" on Wednesday evening, according to the zoo.

Audubon Zoo said Tumani's baby was then transferred to an animal hospital for care. However, attempts to revive the infant were unsuccessful.

"There are many risks involved with gorilla births and unfortunately, it is not unusual for a first-time gorilla mom to lose an offspring," Dr. MacLean, Audubon’s senior veterinarian, said in a statement. "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."

Tumani and her baby gorilla
Audubon Zoo

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Tumani is currently being monitored by Audubon’s veterinary team.

"We are heartbroken over the loss," Ron Forman, Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO, said. "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."

The World of Primates section of Audubon Zoo, which specializes in gorilla conservation, will remain closed until further notice.

Tumani and her baby gorilla
Audubon Zoo

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

Western lowland gorillas have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, with a population decline of more than 80 percent due to illegal hunting, disease and habitat loss.