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Baby Gorilla Settles Into New Home At Columbus Zoo

Media Alert: Friday, May 28, 2010

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2010 

CONTACT:                                                
Patty Peters                                                       
Associate Zoo Director Community Relations
 

Powell, OH – Baby gorilla Misha (MEE-sha) is now receiving 24/7 care from Columbus Zoo and Aquarium experts who are raising the infant next to other gorillas; the first step toward identifying a surrogate mom and integrating her into a family.

Misha arrived May 24 accompanied by Louisville Zoo staff who have been caring for her since her birth there on February 6.  On April 1, there was an interaction within her family group consisting of her mother, father and another adult female that resulted in Misha losing part of her left leg and breaking a bone near her left hip.  Hand rearing Misha was necessary to aid and speed her recovery following her injury. 

With the goal to get Misha back into a gorilla family, Louisville Zoo animal care staff consulted with the nation’s leading gorilla experts and decided to relocate Misha to the Columbus Zoo since her mother didn’t have surrogacy history or training that would provide the best possible care for her. The gorilla program at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is internationally recognized for caring for gorillas in social groups including the placement of young gorillas with surrogate mothers to become integral members of a family group. Surrogates are taught to not only care for their baby like their own but also to bring the baby over to staff when prompted for bottle feedings, medication and regular check-ups.

During the introduction period which is expected to take at least a few months, Misha will be spending the majority of time in the indoor African Forest habitat by the other gorillas but may need to be moved to the behind-the-scenes nursery on occasion.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been a pioneer of the gorilla surrogacy program for more than 25 years.  Eight of Columbus Zoo’s gorillas have been raised in the surrogacy program and an additional six have been sent from other zoos.  The Columbus Zoo has several female gorillas that could act as a surrogate mother and observations of their interest in Misha will determine the best fit. It is fully expected that Misha will adapt to her injuries and thrive in a family that includes gorillas of varying ages including aunts and a silverback male.

There are about 850 gorillas in zoos worldwide including 359 in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan.  There are now 16 gorillas at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Habitat loss and deforestation have historically been the primary cause for declining populations of Africa’s great apes, but experts now agree that the illegal commercial bushmeat trade has surpassed habitat loss as the primary threat to ape populations.  The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium supports numerous conservation projects including the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance and the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration.  In 1991 the Columbus Zoo founded Partners in Conservation to conduct conservation and humanitarian programs benefiting both wildlife and people in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.)  Over the past five years the Columbus Zoo and Partners in Conservation has distributed more than $3.8 million in conservation grants worldwide.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. after Labor Day.  General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+.  Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free.  The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.)  For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit www.columbuszoo.org.  

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