L.A. Zoo is Delighted to Announce That First-Time Mother N’djia is Expecting A Baby This Holiday Season
For the first time in over 20 years, the Los Angeles Zoo is making preparations for the highly anticipated birth of a critically endangered western lowland gorilla. The 25-year-old first-time mother N’djia (en-JEE-uh) came to the L.A. Zoo in 2018 from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding recommendation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program. After animal care staff observed N’djia breeding with the male silverback gorilla Kelly, they confirmed her pregnancy through a series of at-home pregnancy tests. N’djia is nearing the end of her 8.5-month gestation period, and the Zoo is cautiously optimistic that a baby will join the rest of the troop sometime between now and January.
“We’re really excited to share the news of this pregnancy with the public,” said Beth Schaefer, director of animal programs at the Los Angeles Zoo. “The western lowland gorilla is critically endangered in the wild, so having an insurance population in zoos is extremely important. We welcome the public to follow us on this journey as we prepare for the birth of N’djia’s first baby. It really shows the amount of diligent work and planning that goes into caring for all of the animals here at the Zoo from birth to death, and all of the big events in between.”
L.A. Zoo animal care and health staff confirmed N’djia’s pregnancy this past summer and began working together to monitor the health of both mom and baby. Staff immediately began training N’djia to participate in routine check-ups utilizing positive reinforcement. It is up to N’djia where and when she gives birth, but staff is trained and ready for any outcome. As with any birth, there are risks such as miscarriage, stillbirth, or various complications, but animal care and health staff are hopeful that N’djia’s first pregnancy will be a success.
“I’m optimistic N’djia will be a great mom,” said Candace Sclimenti, curator of mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Although she’s a first-time mother, she’s lived in a group with babies before. While female gorillas carry the majority of responsibility for rearing their young, Kelly has fathered offspring and has proven to be a very patient, playful dad. As a team, we’re experiencing many ‘firsts’ with this pregnancy. We’re excited to share everything we’re learning with the public because we want to create connections between our guests and wildlife.”
This new gorilla baby will help educate the public on a species that is currently considered critically endangered in the wild due to illegal hunting, susceptibility to diseases such as the Ebola virus, and habitat degradation and destruction. Despite the fact that all killing, capture, and consumption of great apes is illegal, hunting for bushmeat is the primary reason for the western lowland gorilla’s decline.
Western lowland gorillas are native to the lowlands and swamp forests of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and Angola. These peaceful animals are social and live in stable, cohesive groups composed of one silverback adult male, several adult females, and their offspring.
Guests can now visit N’djia and Kelly along with their companions Rapunzel (35) and Evelyn (43) at the Campo Gorilla Reserve exhibit daily, weather permitting. For the latest updates on N’djia’s pregnancy and birth story, follow along at @lazoo or #lazoo on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
About the Los Angeles Zoo
Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing more than 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,400 animals representing 270 different species, 58 of which are endangered. Its lush grounds on 133 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $22 for adults and $17 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo website at lazoo.org.
About Species Survival Plan (SSP) Programs
An AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program strives to manage and conserve a select and typically threatened or endangered, ex situ species population with the cooperation of AZA-accredited institutions. SSP Programs develop a Breeding and Transfer Plan that identifies population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied population. There are currently nearly 500 SSP Programs, each managed by their corresponding Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs), within AZA.