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Growing Up Gorilla: Louisville Zoo's 'Kindi' Makes Public Debut

At just over a month old, a Western lowland gorilla is set to make her debut on Thursday at the Louisville Zoo.

Kindi was delivered via emergency cesarean section on March 14, after zoo staff found her mother, Mia Moja, bleeding and in distress. Less than a day later, Mia Moja died. Since then, a team of zookeepers have been hand-raising Kindi.

In the wild, a baby gorilla would cling to its mother's fur all day and night. At the zoo, keepers wear a special furry vest and allow Kindi to hold onto them 24 hours a day.

Zookeeper Jill Katka says so far, it seems to be working. "I wouldn't say that she's necessarily out of the woods yet, but she seems to be thriving," Katka says. "She's eating well, she's growing, she's gaining weight — she's doing everything she's supposed to be doing."

Mia Moja was part of a family group of gorillas at the zoo, along with Kindi's father, Mshindi. Katka says the other two female gorillas in the family, Paki and Kweli, are possible surrogates for Kindi. The adult gorillas have been allowed to meet and spend time with the baby through a protective fence, and Paki seems especially interested in her.

"We have a mesh panel that we call a 'howdy door,' that they can see the baby during all the waking hours," Katka says. "We'll bring her pretty close up to the mesh and we'll sit right there, and we'll let Paki touch her gently."

Kindi can be introduced to the family in about five months, once she's learned to crawl to the fence for her bottle feedings. In the meantime, zoo visitors will be able to see the 4-pound infant on a limited basis from noon to 4 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays.

Kindi's name is the Swahili word for squirrel. Mia Moja's agility earned her the nickname Squirrel, and Kindi is named in honor of her late mother.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.

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