Baby Gorilla turns One

(Pittsburgh) (April 2014)— First birthdays are always special and for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s baby gorilla, turning one is another big milestone in a year that had some ups and downs.

Though there aren’t any blue streamers and party hats around the western lowland gorilla yard, our one-year-old is receiving a second special birthday cake and presents.

 “Of course the other gorillas are very excited to receive additional treats in celebration of the little gorialls’s birthday,” says Roseann Giambro, Lead Gorilla Keeper. “Normally, he just grabs food from his mom and grandmother, but these treats are for just him.” Though he is eating more soft foods, he still receives three bottles of formula every day. Keepers are working to wean him from the formula and substitute whole milk.

Our baby gorilla is also celebrating his new name, Ivan.  “He is named after a dear friend and colleague, Ivan Gartner, who was general manager of the Zoo’s Food and Gift Operations for 20 years,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, President & CEO of Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “Ivan recently passed away and I know he would have been thrilled.”

Ivan’s first birthday is very special to keepers who have helped raise him during the first few months of his young life. “Moka, his mother, developed severe mastitis when he was just six weeks old and she couldn’t nurse him,” says Giambro. “We knew that in order to save his life, we would have to hand-raise him and that is what we did.”

For six weeks, the veterinary and keeper staff, along with volunteers, worked around the clock. “We wanted Ivan to grow up with the natural behaviors of a gorilla, with the goal of reintroducing him back to his troop,” explains Karen Vacco, Assistant Curator of Mammals. “So that meant caring for him like a gorilla mom. We mimicked the way mom would carry him, groom him, and we even communicated using gorilla sounds.”

At four months of age, the rambunctious little guy was reintroduced successfully to his troop. Today, Ivan is a happy baby, going from one family member to another, and he loves to play. “He is a good climber,” says Giambro. “He also likes to explore, but still stays close to mom.”

Zoo visitors are invited to join Ivan’s birthday celebration on Sunday, April 13 at 1 p.m. at the gorilla yard when he will receive another special treat.


Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium Members receive free admission for an entire year.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is open year round.  For directions, hours, tickets, and group sales information, call 412-665-3640 or visit .  The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. For more information, visit