More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

First Birthday for a Special Gorilla at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Lilly, An Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla, By: Gene Duncan

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.

Lilly, An Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla and Her Mother, Kashata, By: Gene Duncan

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.

Lilly, An Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla, By: Gene Duncan

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.

Lilly, An Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla, By: Gene Duncan

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.

Lilly, An Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla, By: Gene Duncan Lilly, An Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla, By: Gene Duncan Lilly, An Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla, By: Gene Duncan

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


  • I look forward to hearing more about how Lilly progresses. What a unique opportunity 🙂

  • I’ve spent hours in the Pangani Forest watching the gorillas, and I’m usually captivated by the bachelor troop on the other side, but last year I couldn’t take my eyes off this little rascal as she scampered around and played.

    I’m thrilled to learn that Disney is helping her overcome whatever condition she has and is taking such good care of her.

  • We were fascinated by the gorillas during our most recent trip to the park on New Year’s Day. I could have watched them for hours! The baby seemed playful and curious. She even chased a rabbit. Keep up the good progress!

  • I love seeing all the animals at the Animal Kingdom. It is amazing to see such a variety of animals that I would never have the chance to see otherwise. Thanks so much to all the people that care for these animals. It’s encouraging to hear all the ways these caregivers are helping to try and save endangered species all over the earth.

  • I love the gorilla exhibit, and we were so lucky to see Lilly last year shortly after she was born. I am so glad she’s getting the extra OT she needs to overcome her challenges! I can’t wait to hear more about her achievements!

  • Happy Birthday Lilly! I look forward to hearing about her grow even more during her second year of life.

  • We saw Lilly just 24 hours after she was born, its good to see her doing well

  • We were at the Animal Kingdom about a week ago and tried to spend time watching Lilly however she was sitting up on the hill with her mom. I was a bit put off when I inquired to the CM if that was in fact Lilly. His response was short and abrupt “We don’t use her name” as if it was a bad thing that we were looking for her. We have loved the articles regarding her and hope she continues to do well!

  • Happy Birthday Lilly!!!

    To all those at Animal Kingdom who have helped Lilly this year THANK YOU!!!!

    I look forward to seeing Lilly in a couple of weeks when I come for a visit after my cruise! 8(:-D

  • Happy Birthday Lily!

    We were thrilled to see her last April with Kashata. We’ve been following her progress (and setbacks) on the blog and are thrilled to hear that she’s doing well.

    Great job to the staff at Disney for their dedication to their animal charges. Keep us posted on our favorite gorilla! We can’t wait to see her again next year.

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