New gorilla baby at zoo

Taz and Lulu are part of the largest collection of western lowland gorillas in the United States.

Their family unit is quite extensive. Taz has four mates and seven offspring.

Taz and Lulu are parents of Zoo Atlanta’s newest gorilla, who is still unnamed.

Taz and Kuchi are the parents of the 7-year-old twins, Kali and Kazi, and the 2-year-old Henry.

Taz and Kudzoo are the parents of Macy Baby, age 7, and Merry Leigh, just 18 months.

Taz and Sukari are the parents of Gunther, who is 6. The adolescent males Gunther and Kali have gone to live with other family units at the zoo, to better ensure domestic tranquility.

Lulu, a western lowland gorilla and the youngest child of Zoo Atlanta’s famous Willie B., gave birth to a healthy baby Thursday evening.

Though inexperienced as a mother, Lulu’s instincts were perfect, zoo personnel said. She cleaned up the new arrival and began nursing the baby right off the bat.

The keepers haven’t had a good look at the new primate yet and still don’t know its gender. But they estimate that it weighs about 3.5 to 4 pounds, which is average for a baby gorilla.

“It’s a lot more bald than you’d expect,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, Zoo Atlanta’s curator of primates, who gave Lulu, 13, great marks for her mothering skills.

“She’s been around a lot of babies in this big family group, and she’s had a lot of opportunity to see others. But she’s not been involved in care taking,” said Mickelberg. “She’s mostly been an observer.”

Lulu’s mate is Taz, a 23-year-old silverback with a big family. So far, Taz has sired the twins Kali and Kazi, as well as Macy B., Gunther, Henry and Merry Leigh. Other adult females in Taz’s household include Kuchi, Kudzoo and Sukari, all of whom have borne his offspring.

An infant gorilla is usually born with excellent muscle tone and is soon strong enough to hold tight to the mother’s fur while she climbs or runs — whether away from danger or toward food. But Lulu is taking no chances with this one. She’s cradling the infant with one arm while walking bipedally about her outdoor enclosure.

(Both mother and child were on exhibit as of Friday afternoon, and Saturday’s predicted warm weather should bring a sizable crowd of baby watchers to the zoo.)

Lulu may be more protective of this child because of previous disappointments. She gave birth once before, in 2005, but that infant died five days later.

The mother did not seem stressed by Thursday’s birth, which took place within an hour of the onset of signs of labor, said Mickelberg. “She grabbed that baby right away and cleaned it up and hasn’t put it down since.”