Como Zoo Mourns the Death of Infant Gorilla

It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the passing of the baby gorilla that was born at Como Zoo to first-time mother Alice on Wednesday, November 19.

Since the baby’s birth, he and Alice were under zookeeper watch and care around the clock. The baby had appeared as if he was doing well through Saturday evening.  He had a strong grip and was vocal. Alice was showing positive signs of maternal instinct, had been observed nursing and cradling the baby. Despite best efforts to monitor and record the baby’s food intake, many times Alice would cradle her baby to her chest with her back towards the observing zookeepers making it difficult to determine when and if nursing was indeed taking place.  To prevent undo stress on new mothers, and allow them the necessary time to bond with their baby, it is imperative that zoo staff and veterinarians not intervene unless absolutely necessary. 

On Sunday morning it was apparent that the baby was weak and his health failing.  While the intervention process was happening the baby was set down by Alice and the zookeepers were able to retrieve him without the need to immobilize Alice. Resuscitation efforts on the infant were quickly preformed but were unsuccessful. A necropsy will be performed in an attempt to determine the cause of death. Preliminary hypothesis is that the death may be due to complications with food intake.

“The entire Gorilla SSP shares the Como Zoo’s heartbreak over this sad event” stated Dr. Kristen Lukas, Director of Conservation & Science at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and the Chair of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan.  “It is always difficult to lose a young one but we fully understand the significance of this particular birth for Como Zoo and are very sorry for your loss.”

Out of 437 gorilla births at Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions since 1980, 26% of males and 20% of females did not make it to their first birthday.  In wild-living western gorilla populations, mortality rates in the first year of life have been reported up to 42% and in mountain gorillas, first-time mothers have 50% higher infant mortality rates than second-time mothers.