Proud, protective papa shows off baby gorilla

November 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Regenstein Center for African Apes has been closed since the baby's birth last Wednesday. But on Tuesday morning it opened up again and the public got its first glimpse of the endangered little gorilla. She's the first baby for 16-year-old Bana and the first gorilla birth at Lincoln Park Zoo since 2005.

"It's the first time in six years and that's actually intentional. We've been keeping our girls on birth control for the last several years. We haven't had a breeding recommendation. We work cooperatively with all the other zoos in the country to make sure we maintain the population appropriately," Dr. Megan Ross, v.p. animal care, Lincoln Park Zoo.

Bana came to Lincoln Park Zoo from Brookfield Zoo last year to become a mom. Kwan, 22, is the father. He's a silverback lowland gorilla. Even though Kwan's in charge, Bana is raising the baby.

"Being a first time mom ... you know there are some kinks they have to work out but the baby is doing well. Nursing fine and every day getting stronger and more alert," Dominic Calderisi, lead keeper, Center for African Apes.

Baby girl and mom couldn't be doing any better. They're warm, well fed, and totally secure in Kwan's hairy hands.

"A silverback is going to be protective of his female. Protective of his offspring," Dr. Ross said.

There are eight gorillas at Lincoln Park Zoo: Kwan, his five girlfriends and two of his offspring, including the new baby.

"I think Kwan knows he is in charge of these females and he's been with those females and I'm one hundred percent sure he knows these are his offspring," Dr. Ross said.

"Silverbacks are extremely protective fathers and that's actually when they're most dangerous when they're looking after their offspring," Calderisi said. "Don't ever go in there."

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