Zoo Gorilla may be Pregnant

(Pittsburgh) (February 2013)--- According to a recent pregnancy test, the Pittsburgh Zoo’s female gorilla, Moka, received a plus.

“Even with the positive indication from the pregnancy test, we are not 100-percent sure that Moka is pregnant,” says Karen Vacco, Assistant Curator of Mammals at the Zoo. “It isn’t as easy as the test suggests.”

 “We will continue to monitor her for changes in her behavior and weight gain, which are also good indications,” says Ms. Vacco. “We know that she mated with Mrithi, but that does not always result in pregnancy.”

A gorilla gestation is approximately eight months. At birth, baby gorillas weigh between 4 and 5 pounds. It is important for mom and baby to bond shortly after birth and for the baby to begin nursing. The mortality rate for infant gorillas in the first several months is 40 percent.

This is Moka’s second pregnancy. She gave birth to a baby boy last year and was a very caring mom. Unfortunately, at 4-months of age, the baby gorilla passed away. “Despite numerous tests, we do not have a definitive cause of death,” says Ms. Vacco.

Gorilla moms are very protective of their babies. Mom will carry her baby on her chest for the first three months and at about 6-months-old, he will move to ride on her back and begins smiling playing, and moving around on the ground close to mom.

“Gorillas are very family oriented,” says Ms. Vacco. “Mom will let other family members see the baby and they will take their cues from mom as to how close they can be.” When the baby is older and able to move around on its own other family members, including dad, will play with the baby.            

Western lowland gorillas are highly endangered due to loss of habitat, poaching, and disease.