Milwaukee County Zoo keepers trying to help newly-orphaned baby gorilla

Zahra transitioning well so far

After the passing of 17-year-old western lowland gorilla, Naku on April 30, the Milwaukee County Zoo announced an update on Naku's 8-month-old baby, Zahra. 

"We have been caring for almost 8-month-old Zahra with human-assisted rearing," the Zoo said in a statement on their Facebook page. "Zookeepers are with her around the clock to make sure her needs are met and supporting her emotional well-being in this highly sensitive situation."

On April 13, Zahra also lost her father, 31-year-old Cassius after increased liver and kidney function found that his heart was not contracting fully. 

Naku had emergency surgery after a necrotic bowel was discovered following an unusual bout of tiredness that day. Naku was euthanized after doctors could do no more.

The average lifespan of a gorilla is around 35 years. The oldest ever captive gorilla is Fatou, who turned 61 this April. 

The plan for Zahra is to have zookeepers act like a gorilla parent until, hopefully, Shalia, another gorilla in the habitat, acts as a surrogate mother for Zahra. 

"Zookeepers caring for her wear a 'gorilla T-shirt' with synthetic gorilla hair for Zahra to grip and hold on to," the Zoo said. "She is eating well and adjusting to her new routine."

To aid the process, the zoo has contacted other zoo professionals who have navigated similar transitions with juvenile gorillas successfully in the past. 

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