It was born just a few weeks ago, has no name yet, and its gender could not have been determined so far, but already has millions of fans and hundreds of thousands of people follow its fate. It is the pride of Ohio and the world, currently known as Mondika.
But who is her/him actually?
S/he is nothing but the youngest of the nine western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), the 49th baby gorilla of the history of the zoo. Asha (11) gave birth to her/him in the morning on 4th August 2014, as her first baby. The baby is apparently healthy, so the gender of the newborn remains the only important question to be answered. The time by which its sex can be determined is still uncertain, since the mother jealously protects her/him, in compliance with her duty. Nevertheless, ideas for her/his name have already been presented by her/his keepers. However, while waiting for an answer, everyone is calling the 2.5 kg (~5.5 lb) baby Mondika.
The smallest and the biggest
It is an old wisdom of zoos that the smallest and the largest monkeys are the most difficult to keep and to breed. Gorillas are not an exception from this rule, and since they can be the flagship species of an exhibit, there is a great demand for them by zoos. The species’ breeding strategy of producing only a few offspring and nurturing them for a long time makes their succesful breeding difficult. The high intelligence of these animals does not make breeding any easier, neither does the fact that these apes are characterised by advanced and complex behaviour. Thus, it is completely understable that each successful breeding of gorillas is followed by great pride and professional recognition.
Gorillas around the world
According to the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), there are currently 772 gorillas being kept in 122 institutions. In spite of these numbers, only 24 gorillas were born during the past 12 months (based on available data). This low number also indicates why Mondika is considered so precious by everyone. Species rescue of the gorillas is coordinated and managed by the Species Survival Program (SSP) operating within the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) – for further information, please visit: http://www.gorillassp.org . A similar programme is also being carried out by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) under the name of European Endangered Species Programme and another one in the Australian region, as well (Zoo and Aquarium Association). Finally, the importance of the protection of the species and the subspecies is marked by the fact that an International Studbook (ISB) is being kept on them, that registers the zoo-dwelling gorilla population of every continent.
How is it, really?
Amazing and majestic, gorillas are among the most popular zoo animals and, being the biggest apes, they are the favourites of a lot of pepole. They hardly have any natural enemies, yet, their numbers in the wild have been continuously diminishing over the past decades, due to destructive human activity. Gorillas face extinction, the species is Critically Endangered (CR) according to the latest data of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)!
Cincinnati Zoo has been supporting the survival of the species for many years by – among other things – conducting a research programme in the natural habitat of the species in Congo. For further information, please visit: www.cincinnatizoo.org