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Birth watch begins for pregnant gorilla—Akenji's baby could come at any time now!

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Akenji's pregnancy is at full term and she could give birth at any time now!

Last month, we shared with you Akenji's ultrasound images and a Q & A with fascinating details about her pregnancy and expected delivery. This week, the birth watch has officially started for her! A birth watch for great apes typically begins a week before the birth window opens and can span two to three weeks. The gestation period for gorillas is about nine months.

The birth watch means Akenji is now under 24-hour monitoring. Overnight, zoo volunteers observe Akenji remotely on cams installed in her bedroom, collect data such as behavioral changes and sleeping pattern and look for any telltale signs that might indicate the onset of labor. A gorilla keeper is on call to respond in case Akenji goes into labor in the middle of the night; during the day, routine care for all the zoo’s gorillas continues with an extra close watch on her when she’s in the outdoor habitat with her family.

Akenji, 22, was born at Woodland Park Zoo. This will be her first baby and the third for the expectant father, Kwame, 24, who is already dad to our two youngest gorillas born at the zoo: son Kitoko born March 2020 and daughter Zuna born January 2021.

We can't wait to meet Akenji and Kwame's new baby!

“Every birth of a gorilla is exciting for the zoo family and our community. We’ve seen hundreds of zoo members and visitors gather at the gorilla habitat seeking out Akenji and her pregnant belly,” said Rachel Vass, Interim Animal Care Manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “While gorillas characteristically have big bellies because of the high volume of fiber in their diet, Akenji’s belly is noticeably bigger, especially when she’s resting on her side. As Akenji nears parturition, she’s more tired. We’ve prepared her as much as we can for a successful birth and to provide good maternal behavior, especially as a first-time mom.”

Woodland Park Zoo is home to two families of western lowland gorillas. Group one includes silverback (adult male gorilla) Kwame; adult females Nadiri, Akenji and Uzumma; juvenile females Yola and Zuna, daughters of Nadiri; and juvenile male, Kitoko, son of Kwame and Uzumma. Group two includes silverback Nadaya; and adult females Jumoke, Olympia and Jamani.

How you can help gorillas
A portion of every visit and membership to Woodland Park Zoo supports saving wildlife in the Pacific Northwest and around the world including protecting western lowland gorillas. The Goualougo Triangle Ape Project aims to preserve wildlife in the Congo Basin by studying gorillas and chimpanzees, the ecosystems and the forces that threaten their survival. Local communities and indigenous people assist in directly addressing the challenges that impact great ape survival in this region.

Bring your used handheld electronics to the ECO-CELL recycling drop-boxes located at both zoo entrances. Photo: Elizabeth Bacher/Woodland Park Zoo

Join the zoo by recycling old cell phones and other used handheld electronics through ECO-CELL to help preserve gorilla habitat. ECO-CELL operates a strict NO LANDFILL program and reimburses organizations for recyclable contributions. The community can bring used handheld electronics to drop-boxes located at both zoo entrances.

Become a ZooParent to support gorillas 
We invite you to become a ZooParent through our plush or digital adoption programs that help Woodland Park Zoo provide exceptional care for all its amazing animals, and support wildlife conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.


Sunny said…
Can't wait! Thank you for the update!
Anonymous said…
So exciting
Anonymous said…
Congrats Mama! You and baby will do amazing🥰
Anonymous said…
My favorite part of the zoo I could sit and watch them all day. Can't wait to see baby.