ATLANTA - Sukari, a 15-year-old western lowland gorilla, gave birth to a female infant on August 30, 2013. A grandchild of the legendary late Willie B., the newborn is the 20th gorilla born in The Ford African Rain Forest since 1988, and is the second gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta in 2013.
“We’re thrilled about Sukari’s new addition, not only because this is a critically endangered species, but also because western lowland gorillas are a very special part of our history and our collection,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “Willie B. was the face of the Zoo for two generations of Atlantans, and his legacy is very much in evidence today – particularly with the arrival of his newest grandchild.”
As the infant grows, there will be a ready playmate who is very close to her age. Sukari’s half-sister, Lulu, gave birth to her own infant, Andi, in March 2013. The youngsters are Willie B.’s fifth and sixth surviving grandchildren.
Zoo Atlanta houses North America’s largest collection of western lowland gorillas, which are currently classified as critically endangered. Habitat loss and poaching are the primary threats to wild populations, which may have declined by as much as 95 percent in some parts of Africa over the past two decades. Zoo Atlanta is a national center of excellence for the care and study of gorillas, with more than 120 published research papers authored or co-authored by Zoo Atlanta staff. In 2011, Zoo Atlanta received the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Edward H. Bean Award for Scientific Achievement in recognition of its long-term commitment to the species.
The newborn is the second offspring for Sukari and 24-year-old silverback Taz. Sukari’s firstborn, 6-year-old Gunther, now lives in a bachelor group with young males Kali, 7, and Mbeli, 11.
August 30 is an exciting day for the zoological gorilla population and for gorillas living in the wild. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, headquartered at Zoo Atlanta and the Zoo’s partner in gorilla conservation, has announced that a wild mountain gorilla female, a member of one of the family groups monitored by the Fossey Fund in Rwanda, has also given birth to an infant today. The newborn is the grandchild of another legendary gorilla, the late Titus, who was one of the best-known mountain gorillas monitored by the late Dian Fossey and was immortalized in the PBS Nature program, Titus: The Gorilla King. With fewer than 900 mountain gorillas remaining on the planet, each birth is reason for celebration.
Stay tuned for updates on the Zoo’s newest resident, and look for a glimpse of Sukari and her new daughter this weekend.