Good news came in a small package to Lincoln Park Zoo Tuesday morning when keepers arrived at the apehouse and discovered that Kowali, a 27-year-old lowland gorilla, was holding her newborn baby.
The zoo had been expecting Kowali to give birth for the last two weeks. She chose to do so sometime between 5 p.m. Monday, when keepers locked the building and went home, and 7 a.m. Tuesday, when they arrived for work.
"The baby was already dry and cleaned off. That means the birth probably occurred several hours earlier," said Andy Henderson, an apehouse supervisor who first found Kowali at 7 a.m. She was sitting placidly in the indoor habitat she shares with the father, Kwan, and two other adult females, Bulera and Madini.
It was Kowali's fifth baby but the first for 16-year-old Kwan, who a few years ago was featured in a Hollywood movie, "Return to Me" starring Minnie Driver. The movie was partially filmed in the zoo.
"It is an important birth in that it is Kwan's first offspring," said Sue Margulis, the zoo's curator of primates. "There are about 360 lowland gorillas in captivity, and it is important that genetically each one is represented in the next generation. Now Kwan is successfully passing on his genes."