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Posted by Candice Rennels on 02/15/2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                 February 15, 2013


CONTACTS:   Tara Henson:  (405) 425-0219, ofc; (405) 919-9038, cell; or [email protected]

                    Candice Rennels:  (405) 425-0298, ofc; (405) 412-6172, cell; or [email protected]





Cupid and the stork conspired and sent a special delivery to the Oklahoma City Zoo on Valentine’s Day. The heir of beloved Western lowland gorilla, Bom Bom, who died in July 2012 from cardiac arrest, was born in the early hours of February 14, 2013, inside a Great EscApe day room. After a nine-month pregnancy, the mother, Kelele (pronounced Ke-Lee-Lee), a 19-year-old Western lowland gorilla who has been with the troop since 2000, gave birth to her first baby, whose sex and name have not been determined.

“This is a significant birth for the population of zoo-environment gorillas,” said Laura Bottaro, Zoo curator. “The baby looks strong and has begun to nurse, which is a sign of good health.”

Zoo staff members, including Bottaro, Robin Newby, Shelly Beene, Nathan Jeffers and Jessica Wilson conducted Kelele’s ultrasound exams and prepared for the birth through various resources, including the Gorilla Species Survival Plan’s (SSP) Birth Protocol. “Kelele appears to be in excellent postnatal condition. She is holding her baby close and showing signs of appropriate maternal care,” Bottaro said. The new infant and mom Kelele will continue to spend time bonding and gradually interacting with other troop members.

While living at the Zoo, Bom Bom also sired a son, George, in 2004, with mom Kathy, who still lives at the Zoo. “It is heartening to know that the new infant has an older half-sibling here at the Zoo, and that Bom Bom’s memory and legacy will continue for years to come,” Bottaro said. Other troop members are Tatu, Muke, Bo and Bakari.

Another exciting addition to Great EscApe arrived around Christmas time. Togo (pronounced Toe-go), a 24-year-old male silverback, Western lowland gorilla, came from the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota. The move was recommended by the Gorilla SSP. Zoo keepers at the Como Zoo have been instrumental in helping with Togo’s transition.

 “Once a male in a population has moved or passes away, another male that predominantly has been a bachelor may have the opportunity to become the leader of a family type troop. This also ensures diversity within the total gorilla population,” said Robin Newby, Great EscApe Zoo supervisor. After a standard, 30-day quarantine for post-arrival health precautions, Togo has been gradually meeting his new troop members, including Emily, Mikella, Gracie, Ndjole and Kathy.

“This magnificent animal is a welcome addition to the Zoo’s gorilla troop dynamic,” Newby said. “He is very laid back, gentle and interacts well with the females.”  

With these two recent additions, Great EscApe continues its involvement in the SSP through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. One of the SSP's most important roles is to manage gorillas as a population to ensure that the population remains healthy, genetically-diverse and self-sustaining. Native to the lowland forests of Central and Western Africa, Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered. Commercial hunting for meat, habitat loss and poaching are contributing factors to their status in the wild.

Guests may be able to see the Zoo’s newest family members but public visibility will vary as all introductions are determined by the comfort levels of the animals.

Located in Oklahoma City’s Adventure District, recognized as one of the top three family friendly zoos in the nation and the state’s #1 attraction, the Oklahoma City Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. with exhibit buildings closing at 4:45 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, and $5 for children ages three to 11 and seniors age 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Are you a Zoo fan?  Find us at and @okczoo. To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit


Media Note: Photo and video accessibility and quality may be difficult until more bonding time has occurred between infant and mom. Togo may be behind-the-scenes and inaccessible until he has had time to meet and grow comfortable with his new troop.

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