The Philadelphia Zoo has proudly announced an animal pregnancy. Honi, a 21-year-old Western Lowland Gorilla is expecting a baby in early fall of this year. The pregnancy was confirmed through an over-the-counter home pregnancy test, the same test used by humans. These tests detect heightened levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in both humans and gorillas alike.
Through expertise in animal training and positive reinforcement methods, zoological animals are active and involved participants in their own healthcare, known as husbandry. This trust and mutual respect is important in fostering a human-animal relationship. Because of this successful training, staff was able to obtain ultrasound images of the baby. Honi actively cooperated with the veterinary staff by holding her belly up to a mesh panel where zookeepers and vets conducted the ultrasound exam on the other side.
The western lowland gorilla is critically endangered. Major contributors to their dwindling wild populations is poaching and habitat destruction. Due to the geographic locations of wild populations, the western lowland gorilla is also vulnerable to disease such as the Ebola virus.
“Honi is doing great but, as with any pregnancy, we are carefully monitoring her health. Although this is early in the pregnancy, by using ultrasound imaging, we are able to see that the baby has a normal heartbeat, which is a very good sign,” said Dr. Keith Hinshaw, Director of Animal Health. “The staff has done an incredible job preparing Honi to participate in her own health care management,” said Hinshaw.