The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s three-and-a-half month old baby gorilla died early Saturday morning despite around the clock efforts to save his life.
“It is heartbreaking for all of us when an animal dies,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “But is even harder to accept when it is a young animal who seems to be doing well. All of our staff is deeply affected by his death.”
Friday morning, gorilla staff noticed the baby was lethargic, sluggish, and not able to cling tightly to his mother, Moka. “Realizing that something was wrong, staff immediately separated Moka from the baby and rushed him to the Animal Care Center. At that time, it was determined the baby was in respiratory arrest,” says Dr. Baker.
Zoo veterinarians immediately intubated the baby and staff worked nonstop to stabilize his condition. “We were hoping that his vital signs would improve,” says Dr. Ginger Takle, director of animal health. “But over the next ten hours, the baby’s condition continued to deteriorate. Early Saturday morning, he went into respiratory and cardiac arrest and CPR was unsuccessful.”
A necropsy was performed but results will not be available for several weeks. “It is very frustrating to not know what happened,” says Dr. Takle. “There were no signs of external injuries and his radiographs appeared normal. He was extremely hypothermic with a low blood sugar when he was brought to the Care Center, but we felt that once we warmed him up and increased his fluids his condition would improve.”
The baby had an earlier incident of lethargy on Wednesday following a time when his grandmother had taken him from mom. But staff separated him from his grandmother and after he ate and drank, he perked up and happily went back to mom.
The baby gorilla was born February 9, 2012. “His birth was an important event in Zoo history,” says Dr. Baker. “The baby’s father, Mrithi was the first gorilla born at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Mrithi’s genetics are valuable to the western lowland gorilla species in North America.”
Western lowland gorillas are an endangered species due to loss of habitat, poaching, and disease.