Woodland Park Zoo shares ultrasound images of baby gorilla

SEATTLE — On May 14, the Woodland Park Zoo released new ultrasound images and video of Akenji, a 22-year-old gorilla, who is expecting her first baby.

The zoo first announced that Akenji was pregnant back on Mar 15 with an expected delivery date between June and July.

This is the first time in zoo history to release ultrasound images of an animal in their care publicly.

“The ultrasound images are key in tracking fetal development. We can visualize limb movement and cardiac function and get measurements to monitor growth. The images indicate normal development thus far,” Dr. Yousuf Jafarey, an associate veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo said.

Historically there have been challenges in getting these images without anesthetizing a gorilla but training sessions with Akenji made it possible to do without.

“Her cooperation allows us to apply the ultrasound probe on her belly and the results help us check the baby’s development. Just like for human women, the procedure is non-invasive, painless, and safe. Further, Akenji has the choice to participate or not. We follow her cues,” Stephanie Payne Jacobs, a gorilla keeper at Woodland Park Zoo said.

Pregnant gorillas received prenatal care similar to humans such as a diet built by a nutritionist, a vitamin regimen to maintain a healthy weight, and regular check-ups.

Akenji herself was born at the zoo and this will be the third child to expectant father, Kwame.

You can learn more about Akenji’s story on the Woodland Park Zoo Blog.

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