VIDEO: Meet the Henry Doorly Zoo's newest baby gorilla

By  | 

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Friday morning, Omaha met one of Henry Doorly's newest family member: a baby girl gorilla.

The zoo baby, who will be four weeks old on Saturday, doesn't yet have a name. The gorilla was about three pounds when she was born at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium to Bambio, a 15-year-old first-time mom; today, she weighs about 5.5 pounds.

Zookeepers are having to care for the baby gorilla while helping Bambio learn to do so herself. When handling the baby gorilla, the zookepers wear a fur-covered vest.

"It looks a little bit like gorilla hair," Dan Cassidy, vice president of animal management at the zoo, said at an introduction event Friday morning at the zoo. "What we're trying to do is teach the baby to hold on to the hair and get strong enough to support itself."

The zoo's current facilities allow the baby to be raised by her mom in the group of gorillas under observation by staff rather than in a zoo nursery, but Bambio has been struggling with some of her maternal instincts.

Prior to the baby's arrival, Bambio was under 24-hour watch. The watch continued afterwards, too, as zoo personnel observed Bambio was holding the baby "too low" rather than up close to her chest in a nursing position.

"After 48 hours of not nursing, we felt we had to intervene," Cassidy said.

Zoo staff immobilized the mother and positioned the baby gorilla could nurse, and hoped that "nature would take over." But that didn't happen, Cassidy said.

Bambio was returned to her group, and the baby is under 24-hour care by zookeepers.

"We're hoping that if the mom, Bambio, learns to take care of the baby (so) the next time she has a baby, she'll go one step further and raise the baby herself without any intervention from us," he said.

The baby is currently being cared for by animal care staff — in very close proximity to the other gorillas and especially her mom. "She always hears and sees and smells gorillas, so as she grows up, she'll know that she's a gorilla," Cassidy said.

The zoo staff will work on teaching Bambio to bring the baby to zookepers when the baby needs care.