(Cincinnati.com) -- If she isn't already, Gladys the gorilla will likely be the most high-profile, non-human primate on the planet.
week the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's 8-week-old western
lowland gorilla is getting her first up-close exposure to news media,
and vice versa. The Enquirer dropped in Tuesday and Wednesday, and ABC
News arrived Wednesday to film segments airing today on Good Morning
America and World News with Diane Sawyer. A CBS This Morning crew comes
in today, followed by Inside Edition on Friday.
If our visits proved the rule, they'll find Gladys a real charmer. That little girl makes great eye contact.
garnering more attention than usual because she was rejected by her
mother immediately after her birth Jan. 29 at the Gladys Porter Zoo in
Brownsville, Texas. If the baby is to survive and thrive, she needs a
It's especially important because maintaining a
captive population is crucial since western lowland gorillas are
critically endangered in the wild.
Groups that manage North
American gorillas decided to relocate her to Cincinnati, where 10 human
surrogates are caring for Gladys until one of the zoo's female gorillas
assumes the role of surrogate mom, a transition that could take several
"That will be the day that all this hard work pays off,"
said primate keeper Ashley O'Connell, wearing a black furry vest and
knee pads as she held Gladys in her lap. O'Connell and other surrogates
mimic many of the things a gorilla mom might do with her baby. So in the
behind-the-scenes "baby suite" at Gorilla World, O'Connell got down on
all fours and crawled around with 9-pound Gladys clinging tightly to her
back. After a few passes around the enclosure, Gladys was asleep - but
still hanging on.
It's a good sign. Gladys needs to master such
behavior before she transitions to the world of captive gorillas. "She's
at the age now where she really starts growing by leaps and bounds,"
said Ron Evans, the zoo's primate team leader.
five times a day and has begun eating some cooked solid foods, such as
sweet potatoes and carrots. She's teething this week; two lower incisors
were the first to break through.
She can roll over and sit up by
herself. She scoots around on her belly. Also this week, for the first
time, she moved from her belly to all fours. "The next step, she'll be
able to (knuckle) walk around by herself," Evans said. The surrogates,
who are with her 24/7, will do that, too.
Since Gladys arrived in
Cincinnati Feb. 22, much of the focus has been on health assessments,
from blood work to fecal checks. "She's passing with flying colors,"
Now, more emphasis will be placed on introducing her
to her gorilla family. Already, human surrogates have been regularly
showing her to the other gorillas; they've been able to put a hand
through their enclosures and gently touch Gladys on the head and back.
most likely gorilla surrogates are Samantha, 43, and M'Linzi, 30; both
are experienced moms. But two teens, Chewie and Mara, "are just
infatuated with this kid," Evans said. Ultimately, "the gorillas have to
decide who this baby's mom is going to be."
It could happen in
month or two or three. "The older (Gladys) gets ... the more she will
imprint on people, the harder it will be to make that transfer," Evans
said. "So the younger, the better."
In the meantime, Gladys spends
lots of quality time with surrogates such as O'Connell, whose first
child was born just five months ago.
"I feel like I'm a mother of two right now," she said. "If I have to be away from my own child, this is where I want to be."