Gorilla Expected to Soon Give Birth at Busch Gardens

Keri Bauer, an Animal Care Specialist at Busch Gardens Tampa, shared the following article on the official Busch Gardens Tampa Blog, which tells us to expect yet another birth to take place in the park in the very near future:
"I have worked with Bolingo his entire life. I know some have watched him grow up and I’m sure it’s safe to say that it comes as a bit of a shock when one day, you turn around and realize that your little boy is growing up. That’s how I feel. 

That day is here. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was looking at images of Bolingo on the ultrasound machine and preparing for his arrival. Now I’m looking at ultrasound images of his little boy or girl and preparing for their arrival. He was the first gorilla born at Busch Gardens and now he is almost nine years old and going to be a dad. I feel like I blinked and nine years have flown by.

Bolingo was born through a cesarean section. I remember getting to hold him those first few nights while his mom, Kishina, was recovering. I was one of the luckiest people in the world. My job was to come to work and hold a snuggly, adorable little gorilla baby until his mom felt well enough to do it herself. It felt good to know that not only was I helping the gorilla family at Busch Gardens, but I was also helping the gorilla population as a whole by helping to ensure this little guy’s survival so that he could grow up and have his own snuggly, adorable little gorilla babies one day. From that moment on, watching how he changed our gorilla group, seeing how he brought so much life and energy to our habitat, it gave him a huge place in my heart (even when he’s being a troublemaker like most 8 year old gorilla boys tend to be). That is why I couldn’t be more excited that Bolingo is going to be a dad!

Mother-to-be, Pele, is a 12 year old female. She came to us with her mother, Mary, back in 2010 as the result of a breeding recommendation from the gorilla SSP. Since their arrival, Mary and Pele have had a very close relationship with Bolingo and we have observed breeding activity on multiple occasions, which is why he is strongly suspected to be the father. He loves to play with them, has learned from them and often times, just wants to be near them. Pele is smart, funny, and spirited; a great match for Bolingo in so many ways. Since she will be a first time mom, we started a maternal training program with her, trying to prepare her for as many things as we can.

A lot of people wonder how you know when you have a pregnant gorilla. They have a gestation period of about eight and a half months and don’t typically have much weight gain during pregnancy, like humans do. Sometimes you will see changes in appetite and even changes in what foods are preferred, but these signs are often subtle and don’t affect every gorilla the same. For this reason, we use other methods for detecting and confirming pregnancies. Since we have two breeding females in our group, we track their monthly cycles through urine testing and perform routine uterine ultrasounds. Once we realized Pele had missed her last cycle, we performed a pregnancy test and it came back positive!! The tests aren’t designed specifically for gorillas so we know there is a margin of error, but they are accurate enough that we couldn’t contain our excitement and quickly confirmed our hopes with an ultrasound. The first ultrasound after the positive test showed that Pele did indeed have a wiggly little baby gorilla in there!

We’re thrilled for Pele and Bolingo and looking forward to the wonderful changes that this little addition will bring to our group. I can’t wait to see the gorilla’s reactions as they meet and welcome this new member into their troop. Pele will be on habitat in Myombe Reserve for guests to see until she is expected to give birth, sometime in November."