LINCOLN PARK — After nearly five months apart, Lincoln Park Zoo's baby gorilla Nayembi was finally reunited with her mother Wednesday.
Nayembi, whose birth excited the city last fall, had been separated from her mother Rollie since late February when she suffered serious facial injuries.
The zoo announced the reuniting of the mother and daughter western lowland gorillas Thursday afternoon.
"This is exactly what we have been working toward, and seeing Nayembi back in Rollie's arms is incredible," Curator of Primates Maureen Leahy said in the zoo's announcement.
Nayembi and Rollie had been living side-by-side at the zoo and were able to see and smell each other for the past several months, but had not made contact since the two were separated on Feb. 20.
It was never clear how Nayembi was injured, but zookeepers heard a yell inside the Regenstein Center for African Apes that morning and found Rollie holding her injured baby tightly.
The younger gorilla suffered a major facial cut and significant injuries to bones in her upper jaw, according to the zoo.
In the weeks after the injury, zoo officials said they were unsure Nayembi would be able to rejoin her mother and the rest of the group, but it now appears the two "seemed to pick up right where they left off with their mother/daughter relationship," according to Leahy.
Staff has been providing 24-hour care for Nayembi since she was removed from her mother.
While Nayembi and her mother are not yet visible to the public, they have also been reunited with gorilla baby Patty, who was born just over a month before Nayembi, and her mother Bana.
The four gorillas and Kwan, the babies' father, are living an in area adjacent to the rest of the group, according to the zoo.
"Patty and Nayembi are already interacting and beginning to play together, while both mothers keep a watchful eye on them," Leahy said.
She said this was the first step in a "very delicate process" of getting the full troop back together.
Over the course of her recovery, zoo staff tried to provide social situations for the growing gorilla so she would be an appropriately acting gorilla later in life.
Part of that process included animal care staff wearing "furry vests" for Nayembi to cling on and making gorilla noises.
“We are watching closely to make sure Nayembi continues to eat appropriately," Leahy said. "We want to make sure she is absolutely comfortable in her new surroundings and will make any adjustments needed to ease this transition."