Zookeepers Get Surprise When ‘Male’ Gorilla Gives Birth

Not everything is as it seems, and sometimes, we may get a surprise, even if we are an expert. Zookeepers learned this the hard way after an 8-year-old gorilla, that they thought was a male, gave birth.

It was more than just a matter of having misgendered this particular animal; they also didn’t know that Sully was pregnant. When they looked in the enclosure, however, the western lowland gorilla was holding a baby.

Although the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium may look a little silly, Sully wasn’t born at the facility. She came from the Columbus Zoo in 2019, along with her mother. Prior to that, she was born at the Milwaukee Zoo.

Photos: Pixabay / NRay91

After the female gorilla gave birth last week, zookeepers realized they had made a mistake. They discussed the mistake on their blog, saying it is difficult to determine the gender of younger gorillas because the sex organs are not prominent.

The males are easier to determine after they get older because they begin to develop head bumps, grow to a larger size, and get the distinguished silver back when they are about 12 years old.

The gorillas were being cared for, and Sully was healthy when her baby arrived. There wasn’t any medical procedure necessary prior to the birth, so veterinarians didn’t have a need to approach her closely.

Interestingly, this isn’t the only time that zookeepers did not know a gorilla was pregnant. On the zoo blog, it says: “Gorillas rarely show outward signs of pregnancy because the newborns are smaller than human babies and gorillas naturally have large abdomens.”

At this time, Sully and her newborn are spending time behind the scenes. The habitat is open for viewing by the public, but you are not likely to see the infant gorilla.

Sully likely fell pregnant last fall. They don’t know which of the gorillas is the father, but there is a 39-year-old silverback named Mac that is the likely candidate.

Two other males are also in the pen, but the leader would likely be the one to father a child. Eventually, a DNA test will be done to determine the paternity.

Despite the error, the zoo said it is thrilled, because lowland gorillas are critically endangered. There are only about 100,000 of those gorillas, so having one, even in captivity, is a good thing.

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