Oklahoma City Zoo celebrates birth of critically endangered gorilla

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Just in time for the holidays, the Oklahoma City Zoo is welcoming a new family member.

On Wednesday night, zookeepers say first-time mother Mikella gave birth to a little bundle of joy inside the zoo's Great EscApe habitat.

The Western lowland gorilla arrived slightly ahead of schedule and just one day before Mikella's own birthday.

“We are thrilled to welcome a new gorilla to our animal family, especially during this festive time of the year,” said Barry Downer, OKC Zoo’s deputy director. “While both mother and baby appear to be healthy, because it’s critical to allow bonding time, the Zoo’s animal care team has not been able to determine the offspring’s gender.”

Officials say the mother and baby will be closely monitored for the next 72 hours to make sure that both are healthy, and that Mikella is exhibiting maternal behaviors.

By 2008, the population of Western lowland gorillas was reduced by 80 percent, classifying the species as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

This latest arrival marks the 26th gorilla born at the Oklahoma City Zoo since 1974.

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