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Endangered baby gorilla dies six days after birth at Audubon Zoo

The Audubon Zoo said the six-day-old infant gorilla died Wednesday after staff noticed it seemed lethargic and weak in the arms of its mother, Tumani.

NEW ORLEANS — Just days after celebrating the birth of a critically-endangered baby gorilla, the Audubon Zoo is now mourning its death.

The Audubon Zoo said the six-day-old infant gorilla died Wednesday after staff noticed it seemed lethargic and weak in the arms of its mother, Tumani. The infant gorilla was taken to the zoo’s animal hospital but the veterinarian team was unable to revive it.

The zoo said the cause of death is undetermined at this time as it appeared the baby was feeding and progressing well. Staff said its possible there was a lack of adequate lactation from Tumani to support the infant, but the zoo plans to perform a necropsy to determine why it died. 

The results of the necropsy will be available in a few weeks, the zoo said. 

Tumani is now being monitored and the zoo's veterinary team and entire troop were given the opportunity to grieve the loss of the infant.

"She's grieving, I think the entire troop is grieving, we gained them the opportunity to understand what had happened and to begin that process of closure just like the rest of us are doing" said Dr. Daniel Cutler, Veterinarian with Audubon Nature Institute.

Staff worked with Tumani before the birth, working with her on maternal training to prepare her to be comfortable with the possibility of staff helping her to feed the baby. The zoo said that animal care staff do not intervene unless absolutely necessary.

“There are many risks involved with gorilla births and unfortunately, it is not unusual for a first-time gorilla mom to lose an offspring,” said Dr. MacLean, Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian.

The baby gorilla’s birth was considered a major event for the zoo which is focused on gorilla conservation efforts. It was the first gorilla born at the zoo in 24 years.

"We are heartbroken over the loss," Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman said.

Many gorilla populations have declined or disappeared over the past few decades. Western lowland gorillas like Tumani are critically endangered with a population decline of more than 80 percent.

“This is a profoundly hard time for the Audubon family and grief counseling will be available to our staff,” a statement from the zoo said. “The community is encouraged to share their condolences with the Audubon team on social media or to drop off sympathy cards at the front entrance of Audubon Zoo.”

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