ASHEBORO, N.C. — A baby gorilla that was born last weekend at the North Carolina Zoo died overnight Tuesday.
In a press release, a Zoo spokesperson said it’s “one of the saddest events in the history of the North Carolina Zoo.”
The Zoo released the following statement:
“Although the cause of death may never be certain, zoo staff believe the mother, Acacia, may have inadvertently rolled over on the infant in her sleep.”
The unnamed male baby gorilla was confirmed dead around 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Zoo veterinarians were forced to perform a caesarean section on Acacia, a first-time gorilla mother, in order to deliver the baby. They say Acacia went through a difficult 24 hours of labor before the c-section.
The delivery marked the third gorilla birth at the zoo since August 2012. Officials say only five gorillas are born annually in all U.S. zoos on average.
“Acacia had already been through problems with her first born,” said Dr. Adrian Fowler, the zoo’s Curator of Mammals. “But against all the odds, she had successfully seen her way through a long labor, a c-section and the initial reintroduction of her baby. This in itself was no trivial process for our team of top veterinarians and experienced animal staff.”
Keepers bottle fed the infant for the first 48 hours until Tuesday when Acacia began showing interest in the baby.
“To everyone’s surprise, Acacia eagerly took possession of the baby and the initial signs were very encouraging,” said Chris Goldston, animal management supervisor for the gorillas. “As the day progressed, the new mother was very protective of her son and appeared to be nursing well. All the signs were that the evening would be quite uneventful.”
During one of the round-the-clock checks scheduled Tuesday night, staff found that the baby had died, although it remained in the arms of its mother.
According to N.C. Zoo Chief Veterinarian Dr. Mike Loomis, all the physical signs and examinations done over the first three days indicated the newborn was healthy.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Loomis said. “But those are the chances you have to take in these kind of situations. We have to give the mother every opportunity to care for the baby on her own.”
Meanwhile, the two male gorillas born in August 2012, Bomassa and Apollo, remain healthy and on exhibit exhibit daily with their parents. Jamani, age 13, delivered the first gorilla born at the N.C. Zoo in 23 years when Bomassa arrived on Aug. 4, 2012. The zoo’s first infant gorilla, Kwanza, has been born in March 1989. On August 31, 2012, 17-year-old Olympia gave birth to another male infant which keepers named Apollo. The father of all three infants is Nkosi, age 21, who arrived at the N.C. Zoo from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio in March 2008.