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Critically endangered gorilla in New Orleans expecting 1st baby

It'll be the first gorilla born at the Audubon Zoo in 24 years!
Credit: AP
Tumani, a 13-year old critically endangered western lowland gorilla that is expecting to give birth later this summer, eats in her enclosure at the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Monday, July 6, 2020. If successful, it will be the first gorilla born at the zoo since 1996. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS — One of the critically endangered gorillas in New Orleans' zoo is expecting her first baby, and already is being trained with a "doll" to hold her future offspring.

 The Audubon Zoo's chief veterinarian, Robert McLean, said Monday that the training doll doesn't look anything like a gorilla, because a stuffed toy could easily be torn apart. Rather, it's a section of canvas firehose tubing woven to about size of a 4-pound newborn gorilla. 

The due date is sometime between July 15 and Aug. 20, and veterinarians don't know the baby's sex.

"This will be the first gorilla birth at Audubon Zoo in 24 years and the first offspring for 13-year-old Tumani, who came to Audubon from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2017," zoo officials said. 

Western lowland gorillas have been classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with a shocking population decline of 80% in the last few decades. This is mainly due to poaching, habitat loss and disease. 

The baby will join the rest of the family in the zoo: Alafia, who raised her own infant at Woodland Park Zoo, and Praline, who was the last gorilla born in New Orleans back in 1996. 

Audubon Zoo reopened to the public on June 3 following a nearly three-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Advance tickets to the Zoo are required and can be reserved here.  

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