LOUISVILLE -- Louisville Zoo's baby gorilla superstar, Kindi, turned 1 Tuesday.
After Mia, Kindi's mother, died during a cesarean section, the premature baby, weighing only 3 pounds, was raised by workers at the zoo. They wore furry vests and carried her 24 hours a day. They bottle-fed her and vocalized to her.
The caretakers made sure she "got used to the sights and smells and sounds of the other gorillas" in the sanctuary. "So, basically our goal was to make sure she knew she was a gorilla and make sure her transition from being raised by humans to being raised by a gorilla would be as smooth as possible," said Animal Curator Jill Katka. "So, for the first five months we spent 24/7 here with her."
The first surrogate they tried to pair Kindi with, Paki, did not take to her as a mother should. The gorilla had never served as a surrogate but had been a fond "aunt" to other infant gorillas. Turned out that she just wanted to be an aunt to Kindi and to return her to her human "mothers" when she was tired of the baby's antics.
"She just wasn't interested in being Kindi's 24/7 mom," Katka said.
The second surrogate, Kweli, 34, took to the baby immediately. She has been a surrogate twice before.
"Kweli has done an excellent job and you wouldn't know that she wasn't her actual mother," Katka said.
She will continue to get infant formula for around another three years. She is eating more and more solid foods, but most of her "good nutrition" comes from the formula. Kindi now weighs 14 pounds. Her biological mother was a smaller gorilla, so at maturity, around 10 years old, Kindi will probably weigh just shy of 200 pounds.
She is still getting her baby teeth which, like humans, she will lose and replace with permanent teeth.
Katka said that Kindi like to play with zoo visitors and that she laughs and plays with boxes, bags and branches. (In 2016, the Louisville Zoo had 850,000 visitors.)
"Everybody loves Kindi," Katka said. "She seems to be pretty smart, but maybe I'm biased."
When asked if Kindi will grow up at the Louisville Zoo, Katka said that for the foreseeable future the gorilla will stay in Louisville. "When she matures, we'll have to see where we're at. And as an adult, when she's ready to have babies of her own we'll see where we are."