The Franklin Park Zoo announced Wednesday that Kiki, one of its seven gorillas, will soon have her fourth baby. The endangered western lowland gorilla last gave birth in 2010, and is being closely monitored, zoo staff said.
“[Kiki] is doing great so far but, as with any pregnancy, we are carefully monitoring her health,’’ Zoo New England Associate Veterinarian Dr. Susie Bartlett said in a statement. “Through the ultrasounds we have been able to see that the baby is active with a steady heartbeat, which are both very good signs.’’
The gestation period of a gorilla is eight and a half months, and Kiki is expected to give birth this May. Veterinarians were able to detect her pregnancy using the same over-the-counter tests humans use, and recently released ultrasound video of the unborn baby.
“Kiki is a very experienced mother, and our visitors will have the unique opportunity to watch this baby grow up and observe the family dynamics,’’ Zoo New England President and CEO John Linehan said.
The mother gorilla lives in the zoo’s Tropical Forest Pavilion with her youngest two daughters: Kimani and Kambiri. Kiki’s oldest daughter, Kira, was moved to the Philadelphia Zoo two years ago to become a mother in order to aid her critically endangered species.
Zoo officials say that the pregnancy is the result of recommended breeding upheld by the Gorilla Species Survival Plan, an inter-zoo program that ensures “genetically diverse and demographically stable captive populations.’’ The father of all four of Kiki’s babies is Kitombe, a male gorilla known by zoo staff as Kit.
Wild western lowland gorillas can be found in West Africa. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, they do not usually produce many offspring and have been diminished by poachers, habitat destruction, and disease.