Tomorrow, February 19, Lilly, an endangered western lowland gorilla born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will be one year old. Speaking from a veterinarian’s perspective, Lilly’s first year has been a bit like trying to solve a challenging puzzle – one that, even if you don’t uncover all the answers, will result in valuable lessons learned and progress made.
Shortly after her birth, our animal care team noticed that Lilly wasn’t clinging to her mother, Kashata, as well as most gorilla newborns. As time passed, we saw that Lilly was much smaller than other gorillas her age, and she was delayed in achieving typical baby gorilla milestones, like grasping, rolling over and crawling.
We are committed to providing all of our animals with the best care. In Lilly’s case, in addition to examinations at our veterinary hospital, we consulted with external medical and pediatric experts, and oversaw a battery of tests to rule out possible causes – such as vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disorders and liver abnormalities. Back to that puzzle I mentioned: The exact cause of Lilly’s condition is still unknown. The great news is that, during the course of Lilly’s first year, we’ve had the opportunity to pioneer new protocols in animal care, and the result is that Lilly is continuing to make progress.
Each day, for example, our animal keepers engage Lilly in what appears to be a form of play but, in reality, is structured occupational therapy. They encourage her to climb, roll over and grasp objects, such as gorilla toys, all in an effort to strengthen her muscles and stimulate her curiosity. Since September, the team has noticed a marked difference in Lilly. She now weighs 13 pounds – three pounds more than she did in November, and she appears much more active and social among her family group.
Our Guests are captivated by Lilly and love watching her as she interacts with her mom, Kashata, and father, Gino, in their habitat on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. And, although we continue to monitor her closely, we are encouraged by the progress in her stamina, strength and dexterity. We’re also pleased to be able to share what we learn taking care of Lilly to benefit other wildlife and conservation efforts.
For more on Disney conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation.