Keepers handling the newborn gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo went to Plan B on Wednesday, hoping to find a surrogate gorilla mother for a baby whose own mom is showing little interest in him.
"This is our next best option to get this gorilla raised as a gorilla, by a gorilla," said Corinne MacDonald, curator of primates at the zoo. "We're very lucky that we have this as an option."
The baby male, born Monday and yet to be named, is healthy and acting, well, like a baby gorilla should. He nursed from his mother after keepers had her anesthetized Tuesday in hopes she would give the newborn another chance when she awoke.
"His instincts were right on. His instincts were perfect," MacDonald said.
The only problem was that mom, an endangered western lowland gorilla named Monifa, still didn't appear to be interested in the newborn. Tuesday night, she bedded down in the gorilla enclosure about as far away as she could from her infant, MacDonald said.
The baby gorilla was taken to the zoo hospital overnight and returned Wednesday to a specially set up nursery that is separated from the main gorilla enclosure only by mesh, allowing the baby to hear, see and smell his brethren, and vice versa.
The hope is that Bawang, an elder female in the troop who has already raised offspring, will take to the little guy like one of her own. She already has shown interest since his birth, MacDonald said. It's also possible Monifa will see that interaction and decide to raise her baby.
It is not unheard of for gorillas to ignore their young, and Monifa is a peripheral member of the troop who may not feel comfortable with an offspring, MacDonald said.
If neither female gorilla takes to the baby, zookeepers will rear him themselves and try to get him to integrate with the troop when he's older, MacDonald said.
Two specialists in raising gorilla babies are heading to San Francisco from the zoo in Columbus, Ohio, she said. In the interim, zoo staffers wearing hospital scrubs and face masks are caring for the baby.
The baby gorilla, part of the critically endangered lowland western species, was the first born at the zoo in 10 years.