Can't-Miss Critter Video: Dallas Zoo Is Caring For 2 Baby Gorillas For The 1st Time In 50 Years | KERA News

Can't-Miss Critter Video: Dallas Zoo Is Caring For 2 Baby Gorillas For The 1st Time In 50 Years

Mar 15, 2019

Nine-month-old Saambili now has a playmate and half-sibling at the Dallas Zoo — a healthy baby born quietly in the early hours of March 7.

Zoo officials say that first-time mom Megan is a doting, proud and attentive mother. They don't know the baby's gender yet, but they'll reveal it along with a name in coming weeks. 

Since the birth, Megan had been bonding with her baby behind the scenes. The zoo has been taking cues from Mom on when she was ready to venture out into the gorilla habitat, and on Thursday morning, she finally did, showing off her tiny, alert newborn:

The family tree

The zoo spent 20 years with no baby gorillas at all, and now, for the first time in 50 years, it has two at the same time

  • The baby's half-sister Saambili was born June 25, 2018 to second-time mom Hope.
  • The baby's mother is 13-year-old Megan, who zoo officials say has been very curious about Saambili.
  • The baby's father is 23-year-old Subira, who is also Saambili's dad. He came to the zoo in 2014 for the purpose of breeding as part of the Species Survival Plan for Western lowland gorillas. Zookeepers say he's turned out to attentive toward and playful with both of his offspring.

Megan with her newborn. Subira, the father, is in the background.
Credit Dallas Zoo

"This is also a big moment for mom Megan, who has been extremely interested in Saambili since day one," says Linda King, the zoo's primate supervisor. "She now has the wonderful opportunity to raise a baby of her own."

When Subira joined the zoo, he caught Megan's eye right away.

"She's definitely the most interested and the least nervous about getting close to him," the zoo's Sarah Villarreal said at the time."She's very pushy and stays very close, trying to appease him.

The Dallas Zoo has a total of 10 gorillas, which includes its bachelor troop of four. They live on one side of the zoo's gorilla habitat, and the six family troop members live on the other side. 

Gorilla facts

The new baby is an endangered western lowland gorilla.

  • Africa has an estimated 350,000 western lowland gorillas, the critically endangered subspecies that the Dallas Zoo cares for, according to the zoo.
  • There are roughly 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas — or eastern lowland gorillas — 880 mountain gorillas, and 300 Cross River gorillas remaining in the wild. 
  • Western lowland gorilla females like Hope weigh between 150 and 200 pounds and stand 4 1/2 feet tall. 
  • In the wild, gorillas live for 30 or 40 years, according to the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. In captivity under human care, gorillas can live into their 50s.
  • Poaching and disease have reduced western lowland gorillas numbers by more than 60 percent over the last 20 to 25 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Even if all of threats were removed, scientists estimate that the population would require around 75 years to recover.