Milwaukee Co. zookeepers feeding baby Zahra, who lost both parents in April, every 2.5 hours

Baby Zahra (PHOTO: Milwaukee County Zoo)

MILWAUKEE — Officials with the Milwaukee County Zoo on Thursday, May 24 shared another update on Zahra, the baby western lowland gorilla who recently lost both of her parents.

They said she’s being fed every two-and-a-half hours by zookeepers, and while formula is the main part of her diet, she also loves produce — like sweet potatoes, red peppers and jicama.

Zoo officials posted a photo of Zahra enjoying beans.

On May 18, officials said Zahra was adjusting to human-assisted rearing and sleeping through the night. She’s being cared for by zookeepers 24/7.

Zahra (Milwaukee County Zoo)

Shortly after her mother’s death, officials said zookeepers were wearing a gorilla T-shirt with synthetic hair so Zahra could grip and hold onto them.

Zahra’s father, Cassius, was 31, and died on April 12. Zahra’s mother, Naku, was 17 and died on April 30.

Zoo officials said it was revealed that Naku was septic, and zookeepers learned the source of Naku’s illness was located in her abdomen, so an emergency surgery was then performed by a veterinary surgeon.

Cassius, 31-year-old gorilla, dies at the Milwaukee County Zoo

Surgery showed that Naku had a necrotic bowel, meaning a portion of the intestine had died, and was no longer functioning. Because of the location of the affected intestine, removal of the dead portion and re-attachment of the healthy sections was not a viable option. The animal care staff and veterinary team assessed that Naku would most likely have less than a 10 percent chance for survival with re-attachment surgery.  Rehabilitative care would have meant extended time under sedation for Naku, resulting in a poor quality of life.

Naku with Zahra

The difficult decision was made that she be humanely euthanized.

As for Cassius, prior to his death, Cassius was not interested in food or water. An exam revealed decreased liver and kidney function and that the heart may not have been contracting fully.

Zookeepers were working to determine whether their deaths were related, and sent samples to a lab for analysis. The remaining five gorillas were placed on antibiotics and placed in quarantine, off-exhibit as the deaths were investigated.