Nature’s way of doing things may be surprising; zookeepers were raising their eyebrows when they thought a male gorilla gave birth to a baby gorilla. The Columbus Zoo said keepers observed Sully holding onto a baby gorilla.
Sully has lived at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium since 2019 with her mother and other troop members. Sully and her mom, Shalia, left Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin and were transported to The Colombus Zoo. The Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan recommended the new environment after Sully’s dad died in 2018. At the time of the relocation, Sully was four years old and her mom was 17 years old.
It’s not a bizarre sight to see a gorilla holding a baby gorilla but the surprising fact was that the zookeepers were under the impression that Sully was a male. It’s hard to figure out the sex of gorillas so they only discovered Sully’s true gender after she gave birth.
In a press release, the zoo wrote: “Until about age 8, males and females are about the same size, and they don’t have prominent sex organs. As gorillas age, they become sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females look very different. However, males don’t develop their characteristic large size, silver backs and large head bumps [called sagittal crests] until age 12 or later.”
Zoo veterinarians stated that when Sully arrived at her new home, she was healthy and looked after well by her mother. So, there were no surgeries done to verify her gender, and now, at the age of eight, the zoo made the discovery that she is indeed a female.
Gorillas also don’t have any obvious signs during pregnancy, and experts aren’t exactly sure when a baby might be due.
The zoo confirmed that the new baby gorilla looks healthy and Sully is doing a good job looking after her needs. The care team has stepped aside to allow the mom to bond with her new baby girl.
“We’re thrilled by the addition of another birth for this critically endangered species,” the zoo said. “As the 34th gorilla born here since 1956 when the Columbus Zoo became the first zoo in the world to welcome the birth of a baby gorilla, she’s an important part of our work to conserve these magnificent animals.”
The zoo plans to get a DNA test completed to determine the baby’s father.