Baby gorilla thrives with human surrogates

CINCINNATI — A baby gorilla being raised temporarily by human surrogate parents is doing well — learning to roll over, sit up and getting ready to walk on all fours.

Cincinnati Zoo &Botanical Garden primate specialists say “Gladys” is in good health, developing and growing quickly with loving care from 10 humans imitating a gorilla mom’s behavior.

This week she began supporting herself on all fours.

“The next step, she’ll be able to walk around by herself,” said Ron Evans, primate team leader.

Gladys also is teething and has begun eating some cooked foods, such as sweet potatoes and carrots, besides being bottle-fed five times a day.

“She’s at the age now where she really starts growing by leaps and bounds,” Evans said.

She came to Cincinnati last month from Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, after she was born there Jan. 29 to a first-time mother who showed little maternal instinct. It was decided to move her to Cincinnati’s zoo because of its extensive experience in raising gorilla babies and its availability of experienced gorilla mothers.

Human surrogates dress in black, wear furry vests and kneepads and make gorilla sounds to help prepare Gladys for the transition to a real gorilla family. They have been showing her to other gorillas and letting them touch her.

The Cincinnati Enquirer (http://cin.ci/WYwKZK ) reports that zoo specialists think she will be ready within a few months, and there are four potential adoptive moms among their gorillas.

“The gorillas have to decide who this baby’s mom is going to be,” Evans said.

“That will be the day that all this hard work pays off,” said primate keeper Ashley O’Connell, crawling around with the 9-pound gorilla riding on her back.

O’Connell just had her own first child five months ago.

“I feel like I’m the mother of two right now,” she said. “If I have to be away from my own child, this is where I want to be.”

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Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com

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