KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Mother and infant appear to be doing well, according to the Knoxville Zoo, after Hope, an endangered Western lowland gorilla gave birth.
The baby was born at 2:30 a.m. Thursday. Zoo staff are monitoring Hope and her infant. They said as long as they continue to do well, there are no concerns about their interaction with the other members of the gorilla family group.
The baby gorilla represents the first-ever gorilla born in Knoxville and the first gorilla born in the state of Tennessee in 30 years.
“We are thrilled,” said Lisa New, executive director of Knoxville Zoo. “This is a wonderful moment for Knoxville, and we hope our community is as proud as we are.”
The gorilla habitat, Gorilla Valley, will be closed, according to zoo staff, to give mother and baby time to bond. The area will reopen as soon as Hope seems receptive to having visitors. Zoo staff said that should take a few days.
This is the fourth birth for the 31-year-old mother. The Western lowland gorilla was brought to the Knoxville Zoo from Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the recommendation of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan. Staff say Hope is a patient, attentive and playful mother.
Machi, another Western lowland gorilla, is expected to give birth in the next few weeks.
Western lowland gorillas are native to the rainforests of Africa. The zoo says habitat loss, commercial hunting and outbreaks of the Ebola virus have significantly impacted their population.