Critically Endangered Gorilla Born at Jacksonville Zoo

The baby is thriving under the care of his mother.

baby gorilla

Lynde Nunn

It's a healthy, critically endangered baby boy for Lash and Madini.

The western lowland gorillas are parents to a newborn infant at Florida's Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Born Friday, this is the fifth gorilla born at the zoo and the first since 2018. The boy is the third healthy offspring for 44-year-old Lash and the second for Madini, who is 24. Madini has a daughter named Patty, who lives with her at the zoo and will be six years old in early May.

"Madini is a fantastic mother. The infant is strong and nursing well," Tracy Fenn, the zoo's assistant curator of mammals, tells Treehugger. "They are doing so well that we were comfortable allowing them out on exhibit quickly,"

Madini and Lash were a recommended breeding match made by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP). The group of zoo professionals cooperatively manages the gorilla populations at 51 zoos in the United States. The goal is to ensure the genetic and demographic health of captive gorillas by making science-based breeding and transfer recommendations.

This may be the end of Lash's parenting days.

"Because Lash is old for a gorilla, there's a possibility this infant could be his last," Fenn says.

"His genetics are most important to the overall health and sustainability of the SSP population, which serves as a safety net to wild populations that are critically endangered," adds Fenn. "The infant also helps the group as a whole gain valuable experiences, behaviors, and age diversity."

Western lowland gorillas are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. They are threatened due to poaching, disease, and deforestation, and habitat loss. The most widespread of all the gorilla species, they are found primarily in the Congo Basin of central Africa.

Smaller than other gorilla subspecies, western lowland gorillas have brownish-gray coats and auburn crests. Adult males develop striking silver color on their backs as they mature, earning the name "silverbacks." They're much larger than females.

Thriving With His Mother

baby gorilla with mom, Madini
Madini cradles her newborn baby. John Reed

Newborn gorillas weigh only about four pounds at birth. They depend on their mothers for as long as five years before they become independent.

This infant is the ninth member of the largest gorilla group in the zoo's history. The last infant to be born is 2-year-old Gandai. She was raised by keepers after her deaf birth mother, Kumbuka, couldn't care for her properly. After five months of bottle feeding, keepers introduced her to Bulera, a surrogate mother.

Bulera and Gandai were then slowly introduced to the rest of their zoo family including surrogate father, Rumpel; surrogate brother, George; surrogate sister, Madini; and Madini's daughter, Patty. Eventually, they were reintroduced to Gandai's biological mom, Kumbuka, and biological father, Lash.

“We have many reasons to celebrate this new infant. He will further enrich the social environment and experience of his amazing group and strengthen the sustainability of the Gorilla SSP," Fenn says. "Although raising Gandai was an incredibly rewarding experience, the gorilla care staff is elated to see this infant thriving in the care of his own mother."

View Article Sources
  1. "About the SSP." Gorilla SSP.

  2. Maisels, F., et al. "Gorilla." IUCN Red List, 2016, doi:10.2305/

  3. "Western Lowland Gorilla." Zoo Atlanta.