The Los Angeles Zoo is preparing for the birth of a western lowland gorilla for the first time in more than 20 years, it was announced Wednesday.

“We’re really excited to share the news of this pregnancy with the public,” said Beth Schaefer, the zoo’s director of animal programs. “The western lowland gorilla is critically endangered in the wild, so having an insurance population in zoos is extremely important.”

After animal care staff observed 25-year-old N’djia breeding with the male silverback gorilla, Kelly, they confirmed her pregnancy this past summer through a series of tests. N’djia is nearing the end of her 8 1/2-month gestation period, and the zoo is “cautiously optimistic” that a baby will be born sometime between now and January.

The zoo’s animal care and health staff began monitoring the health of both the mom and baby after the pregnancy was confirmed, and staff immediately began training N’djia to participate in routine check-ups.

The first-time mother-to-be came from the San Diego Zoo in 2018 as part of a breeding recommendation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan Program.

Zoo officials said it is up to N’djia where and when she gives birth, but staff is trained and ready for the outcome. As with any birth, there are risks such as miscarriage, stillbirth or various complications, but staff members said they are hopeful that N’djia’s first pregnancy will be a success.

“I’m optimistic N’djia will be a great mom,” said Candace Sclimenti, the zoo’s curator of mammals. “Although she’s a first-time mother, she’s lived in a group with babies before. While female gorillas carry the majority of responsibility for rearing their young, Kelly has fathered offspring and has proven to be a very patient, playful dad. As a team, we’re experiencing many firsts with this pregnancy.”

Western lowland gorillas are native to the lowlands and swamp forests of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Angola. They are peaceful and social animals that live in stable, cohesive groups composed of one silverback adult male, several adult females and their offspring.

N’djia and Kelly, along with their companions Rapunzel and Evelyn, can be visited at the Campo Gorilla Reserve exhibit daily, weather permitting.

For the latest updates on N’djia’s pregnancy and birth story, people can follow along at @lazoo or #lazoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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