Surprise! Zoo Gorilla, Thought to Be Male, Births Baby

Columbus Zoo keepers were surprised to find Sully holding a newborn
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2023 3:00 AM CDT
Surprise! Zoo Gorilla, Thought to Be Male, Gives Birth
Stock photo   (Getty Images / pito kung)

For five years, the Columbus Zoo has believed one of its western lowland gorillas, Sully, was a male. On Thursday, the zoo found out in a very surprising way that it's been wrong this whole time—when zookeepers found 8-year-old Sully holding her newborn baby girl, UPI reports. As the zoo explains in a press release, it's challenging to determine sex when gorillas are young, and until they're about Sully's age, they don't have prominent sex organs and both males and females are sized about the same. "As gorillas age, they become sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females look very different," the release continues. "However, males don't develop their characteristic large size, silver backs, and large head bumps (called sagittal crests) until age 12 or later."

Since Sully, who has lived at the zoo since 2019, was young and healthy, she hadn't needed any veterinary procedures that would have resulted in zookeepers determining her true sex earlier. As for the pregnancy—gorilla pregnancies last about eight and a half months—that was also not determined earlier because, the release explains, "gorillas rarely show outward signs of pregnancy because the newborns are smaller than human babies and gorillas naturally have large abdomens." Sully's troop, which includes her own mother, is supportive of the mom-baby pair and the zoo plans to keep the social group together. The zoo says it's exciting to have a new member of the critically endangered species. If you're in need of a bunch of awwwws, the Columbus Dispatch offers a photographic history of baby gorillas at the zoo. (More strange stuff stories.)

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