POWELL, Ohio – The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is pleased to announce the birth of a female western lowland gorilla baby named Jamani on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 at 9:09 p.m. to mother, Cassie, and first-time father, Ktembe.
The Zoo’s team of animal care experts, who continue to monitor the gorillas, report that experienced mom, Cassie, is providing excellent care to her little one. Cassie and Jamani will likely remain behind the scenes with Ktembe and the other members of their troop for several months to ensure minimal disruptions so they can continue to bond.
The name Jamani means “friend” in Swahili and was selected by Mary Anne Huber, a longtime Columbus Zoo supporter, who has also served as a docent at the facility since 1988. The honor of naming the baby gorilla was auctioned at the Rwandan Fête, a Columbus Zoo autumn fundraiser that supports gorilla conservation.
Jamani is the 33rd gorilla to be born at the Columbus Zoo, where history was made in 1956 with Colo, the first gorilla to be born in human care. Colo made history again as she lived to be 60 years old—the oldest gorilla in human care at that time. Though she passed away in 2017, her legacy—and the Zoo’s gorilla program–continues to have far-reaching impacts in helping to protect the future of western lowland gorillas.
“We are extremely proud of the Columbus Zoo’s successful contributions over the years to the knowledge and understanding of these incredible gorillas, as well as our continued commitment to gorilla conservation. Each birth is extremely special and is important to celebrate as it offers hope for their future. This week, as we also marked the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we have the perfect opportunity to reflect on how each and every one of us can make a positive difference. At the Columbus Zoo, we are inspired every day by the animals in our care, as well as by our community and supporters, who share with us a passion for protecting wildlife and wild places,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf.
The pairing of Cassie and Ktembe was recommended by the Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to maintain genetic diversity of threatened and endangered species in human care. Cassie, one of Colo’s “grandchildren,” was born at the Columbus Zoo on August 16, 1993. Cassie previously gave birth to female, Nadami, on September 29, 2010. Jamani, Nadami’s half-sister, now joins the ranks as Colo’s 12th “great-grandchild.” Ktembe was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo on March 13, 1997 and arrived at the Columbus Zoo from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in August 2017. The Columbus Zoo has a total of 20 gorillas living in three troops led by a different male (silverback). Ktembe’s troop consists of Cassie, Nadami, Jamani and Sue (born at the Lincoln Park Zoo on September 27, 2004).
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with how the troop is responding to the birth of Jamani. They’re all curious, yet very respectful about giving Cassie and Jamani their space. We’re also very proud of Ktembe who, as a first-time father, has even exceeded our expectations with his calm and gentle nature, which sets a positive example and leads the troop’s social dynamics overall,” said Audra Meinelt, curator of the Columbus Zoo’s Congo Expedition region.
According to the International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™, western lowland gorillas (gorilla gorilla) are listed as critically endangered. Habitat loss and deforestation have historically been the primary cause for declining populations of Africa’s great apes, but experts now agree that the illegal commercial bushmeat trade has surpassed habitat loss as the primary threat to ape populations—particularly for western lowland gorillas.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a proud supporter of several gorilla conservation projects in Central Africa, from research to rescue and rehabilitation missions. In 1991, the Columbus Zoo also founded Partners In Conservation (PIC), a grassroots effort to protect African wildlife through humanitarian projects. Over the last 27 years, PIC has supported more than 60 projects focused in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition to the world-class gorilla breeding program, the Columbus Zoo is known for being a pioneer in gorilla fostering for more than 30 years. The Zoo has been recognized internationally for the care of gorillas in social groups, including expanding social groups through the placement of young gorillas with foster mothers when their biological mothers were unable to care for them. Over the years, nine gorillas born at the Columbus Zoo have been raised through this fostering program and seven others have been sent from other zoos to receive care.