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Elspeth Lodge/ MEDILL

Gorilla mom, Rollie, cuddles baby Nayembi in January at the Lincoln Park zoo.

Lincoln Park Zoo: Infant gorilla 'stable' after face surgery

by Elspeth Lodge
Feb 26, 2013

A 3-month-old gorilla is missing from its troop at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

One of the institution’s two infant gorillas suffered “serious” cut to the face and is currently recovering away from its social group.

Sharon Dewar, public relations director at Lincoln Park Zoo, said that staffers noticed infant Nayembi’s injury Wednesday morning when a commotion was heard. The gorilla underwent surgery Feb. 20, Dewar added.

While her recovery isn’t certain, the infant “seems” to be in “stable condition” behind the scenes at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s animal hospital, according to a blog post by Lincoln Park Zoo President Kevin Bell.

Dewar said that the zoo is “hopeful and optimistic” about Nayembi’s recovery.

“We find few certainties with such fragile infants, nearly a quarter of whom don’t make it through their first year of life,” Bell said in his post.

In 2011, troop member Bana, mother of the zoo’s second infant gorilla Patty, lost her first gorilla baby to a head injury after only nine days.

“The sad reality is that infant mortality is not altogether uncommon in wild animals, but nonetheless we are absolutely devastated to lose this important newborn which is a critically endangered species,” Megan Ross, vice president of Animal Care, said of the 2011 gorilla baby’s death.

Nayembi, who shares the same birthday with the unnamed gorilla baby, appears to be recovering: “she’s playing throughout the day and getting plenty of sleep, just like an infant should. These are good signs,” Bell said.

Zoo staffers aren’t entirely sure what caused the injury, Bell said, but they think it was caused by another gorilla in the social group, despite no prior indications of aggression within the troop.

Bell credits the zoo with a prompt response— made possible by all the staffers’ preparations for emergency situations— when the incident occurred.

“Curators stress every wrinkle of animal introduction, caregivers run drills for each imaginable scenario, veterinarians spend countless hours honing vital skills,” Bell said.

This preparation made it possible for staffers to “jump into action” when the incident occurred to separate the infant and its mother from the rest of the group.

Nayembi, born on Nov.16 to mom, Rollie, and papa Kwan, will continue to recover away from her group.

Meanwhile, the troop will be observed extra closely to ensure a “stable” environment for the other gorillas, Bell said.