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Columbus Zoo gorilla thought to be male actually a female; gives birth

Sully is pictured with her baby.

COLUMBUS, Ohio − Zookeepers at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio have made an exciting discovery.

Sully, an eight-year old gorilla whom zookeepers thought was male, gave birth last week. The newborn, who does not yet have a name, is the 34th gorilla born in the zoo since 1956.

“We’re thrilled by the addition of another birth for this critically endangered species,” wrote a staff member in the zoo’s blog. “(The newborn is) an important part of our work to conserve these magnificent animals.”

Shawn Bell, the assistant curator for Sully’s section of the zoo, said he had just arrived at work when he got a call from a zookeeper who found the mother with her baby.

“We were managing Sully as a male gorilla, and so we definitely didn’t expect Sully to have a baby gorilla,” Bell said.

Zookeepers had previously mistaken Sully for a male because it’s difficult to tell the sex of younger gorillas. Males and females are about the same size, and they don’t have prominent sex organs, according to the blog. Female gorillas also show few outward signs of pregnancy.

Sully and her baby are western lowland gorillas, which are critically endangered in the wild due to deforestation, habitat loss, and the illegal bushmeat trade.

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Gorilla Sully And Baby

The zoo says it is a “a proud supporter of several gorilla conservation projects in Central Africa, from research to rescue and rehabilitation missions.”

In addition to its gorilla breeding program, the Columbus Zoo has a “foster program” that places young gorillas with foster mothers when their biological mothers are unable to care for them.

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