Family & Education

Baby Gorilla Born in Prague Zoo: Nobody Knew Mother Was Pregnant

BY Petr Svab TIMEApril 25, 2016 PRINT

On Saturday, April 23, Miroslav Bobek’s phone started to ring. The zoologist-on-duty had called: “Female gorilla Shinda began to give birth.” He couldn’t believe it. On multiple levels, Shinda having a baby was just miraculous.

Bobek is the director of the Prague Zoo. Neither he, nor anybody among the zoo’s staff had known Shinda was pregnant, according to his April 23 Facebook post.

Pictures and videos of the mother and the baby, both looking healthy, went viral. Yet while people cheered at the sight of the ape family, many were asking how the zoo had no idea.

Don’t they monitor the animals’ health? Don’t they have experts to discern such important changes?

How Did it Happen?

As Bobek explained, Shinda was one special gorilla.

She was born in 1991 in the Zoo Apenheul in Netherlands. But then she lived with her father in Australia. That’s when a preconception body was implanted under her skin so she would not become pregnant with her father.

The preconception body should have already lost its effectiveness, but Shina still couldn’t get pregnant. In 2001, she came to the Prague Zoo.

In Prague, Shinda managed to get pregnant a few times, but always miscarried. Also, she has always been overweight since she came, leading to repeated speculations whether she was actually pregnant.

Now almost 25, nobody believed Shinda could get pregnant again, Bobek explained.

And so, it seems, when nobody would suspect so anymore, Shinda managed to slip her pregnancy under the radar.

Exemplary Mother

The delivery was over shortly after noon. Other young and female gorillas were closely watching the birth, while Richard, the father and the leader of the pack, kept his distance.

Right after the delivery, Shinda had began to immaculately care for the baby, the zoo’s curator Vít Lukáš said. “She cleaned it and herself and, though it’s her first offspring, she behaved as an experienced mother,” he said.

She was then offered her usual menu—fruit, vegetables, and water—and apparently showed quite an appetite.

Later on, the gorillas had reopened their access to the area visible by the public and Shinda was the first one to come.

“I can’t even imagine what could surprise me more. Not only did we not know about Shinda’s pregnancy, but, to begin with, over time we’ve lost hope she could have a baby anymore,” Bobek said. “I don’t want to jinx it, but it seems a miracle really can happen here and there.”

Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
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