PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - The Philadelphia Zoo announced Monday that Honi, one of its western lowland gorillas, is pregnant!
According to a press release, 21-year-old Honi is due in early Fall and her pregnancy was confirmed via an over-the-counter home pregnancy test, which is also used by humans.
Zoo staff took ultrasound images of the baby and said Honi actively cooperated with them, holding her belly up to a mesh panel as zookeepers and vets on the other side conducted the ultrasound.
“Honi is doing great but, as with any pregnancy, we are carefully monitoring her health. Although this is early in the pregnancy, by using ultrasound imaging, we are able to see that the baby has a normal heartbeat, which is a very good sign,” said Dr. Keith Hinshaw, Director of Animal Health.
"The staff has done an incredible job preparing Honi to participate in her own health care management,” said Hinshaw.
Training at the zoo conducted through positive reinforcement and operant conditioning allows animals to voluntarily participate in activities that challenge them to learn and think new things.
The animals’ training includes husbandry and medical behaviors; these help the zookeepers and medical staff in caring for them.
“We’re thrilled to share this wonderful news with everyone. Honi is an experienced mother and we expect she will do a great job once again. It is exciting that our visitors will have the unique opportunity to see this baby born, grow up and become part of this amazing troop of majestic great apes,” said Dr. Andy Baker, Zoo Chief Operating Officer.
The Philadelphia Zoo is home to five western lowland gorillas: 31-year-old Motuba, 21-year-old Honi, almost 17-year-old Louis, 16-year-old Kira, and 13-year-old Kuchimba – who is Honi’s son.
The new gorilla baby will be among the first generation of animals to explore and spend their formative years in Zoo360, which is the Zoo’s first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration system.
Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to expansion of agriculture, logging, and deforestation.