Our Famous Zoo Babies

by Pat Moynahan on January 30, 2017

zoo-2FLORENCE – When Gladys’ mother rejected her at birth, the Cincinnati Zoo and its “Zoo Babies” program came to the rescue.

Zoo keepers dressed in gorilla suits and attended to her needs 24 hours a day until she got used to her new environment.

Family matters to gorillas, you see. They are social animals that live in family groups. So wearing the suits made the keepers part of the family until Gladys settled in comfortably with her gorilla group. Her successful adoption subsequently made her an international star.


The Zoo’s latest baby hippo.

“Our zoo babies are renowned around the world,” said Dan Milz, a retired educator who volunteers at the zoo.

Milz shared Gladys’ story with members of the Florence Rotary Club at a luncheon meeting on Monday, January 23. The “Zoo Babies” program is an example of the behind-the-scenes efforts at the zoo to ensure the health and survival of animal species around the world.

The Cincinnati Zoo participates in a Species Survival Plan for endangered animals. Zoo officials create plans for the short-term and long-term survival of mammals, insects and birds, Milz said.

The zoo also has a successful breeding program and a CryoBioBank, which includes everything from seeds and spores of plants to sperm, unfertilized eggs and embryos for animals stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees centigrade.

The gorilla program has been particularly successful, according to Milz. Fifty gorillas have been born at the zoo. Samantha, whom he calls “the elder stateslady,” is 46.

“We’re called the sexist zoo in America because of all the babies,” Milz said.

The Cincinnati saw the first birth of a bongo (forest antelope), the first ocelot born in captivity and the first Sumatran rhino, according to Milz. Two giraffes have been born since July.

Like Gladys, all the babies come to be family to the zoo keepers. For example, the zoo keepers know all the giraffes by name, and they tell them apart by the different patterns of the spots, Milz said. They threw a party complete with birthday cake on the first birthday for Gladys.

The staff and volunteers currently are eagerly anticipating the birth of the baby hippopotamus, Milz.

One question: If the mother rejects the baby, who in the “zoo family” has to dress up in the heavy hippo costume?