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A critically endangered gorilla is about to be a mom, and she's using a doll for practice

July 11, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

A New Orleans zoo is preparing for a special new addition: a baby gorilla.

One of the Audubon Zoo's critically endangered western lowland gorillas, 13-year-old Tumani, is expecting a baby, a zoo spokesperson said.

That means a lot of preparation, not just for Tumani and zoo staff but also the rest of the gorilla troop, which isn't used to having an infant around.

"The animal care team is working with Tumani to give her additional tools in her tool belt to aid her after birth should she have difficulties with lactation, positioning of the infant, etc. ," zoo curator Liz Wilson told CNN.

Training for Tumani includes making sure she is comfortable bringing the baby to the animal care team and allowing staff members to help position the baby bottle near her.

To teach her these essential skills, the team has given Tumani a gorilla baby doll that she picks up and positions as if it were her own infant.

Alafia, another western lowland gorilla at the zoo, is receiving daily training to prepare her in case she needs to help Tumani care for the infant or act as a foster mother.

Along with Tumani and Alafia, the troop includes Okpara, a 26-year-old silverback gorilla, the father of the expected baby gorilla, and Praline, the last gorilla infant born at the Audubon Zoo, in 1996.

The birth of a baby also symbolizes a hopeful sign for the future of western lowland gorillas, which have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, Wilson said.

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