‘Exactly what we were hoping to see:’ Jameela bonding with surrogate mom at Cleveland zoo

Jameela, the first baby gorilla born by Cesarean section at the Fort Worth Zoo, is successfully bonding with a surrogate mother at her new facility, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo announced Wednesday.

“Our identified foster mom Fredrika — Freddy — picked baby Jameela up within just a couple of seconds of being given access to her, and that is exactly what we were hoping to see,” animal curator Elena Less said in a video update on X.

Zoo staff made a nest in the gorilla exhibit and placed Jameela inside. Freddy immediately picked the baby up, according to associate animal curator Laura Klutts.

“It was the biggest sigh of relief,” Klutts said on the video.

The introduction to Freddy and other members of the troop lasted around two hours, Klutts said. The time came to an end when Freddy’s surrogate son Kayembe got “a little too rambunctious,” but the introduction was still considered a success.

“Now that we’ve kind of hit that next box that we need to see, we can move forward with what that looks like with what our gorillas say they’re ready for,” Klutts said.

Jameela was born several weeks premature via emergency C-section at the Fort Worth Zoo on Jan. 5.

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After Jameela’s birth mother, Sekani, failed to show any interest in caring for her baby, the zoo staff made two attempts to find a surrogate mother among the other females in the Fort Worth gorilla troop. Unfortunately, the attempts were unsuccessful, and the staff made the difficult decision to send the two-and-a-half-month-old gorilla elsewhere.

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo was chosen because it has had previous success with surrogacy. Jameela arrived safely at her new home in late March, the zoo announced March 28.