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2014 Weekly Media Send Outs

Toronto Zoo Weekly Feature - Wednesday, 2014-01-15

New Addition to the Troop - Western Lowland Gorilla Born!

The Toronto Zoo is very excited that Ngozi, one of the female Western lowland gorillas, gave birth to a baby overnight Thursday, January 9, 2014. Mom and baby are both healthy and are doing well, and Wildlife Care Staff are continuing to monitor their development. Charles, the Zoo's silverback male, is the newborn's father. At this time Zoo staff cannot determine the sex of the baby, as it remains close to Mom. This newest addition to the Toronto Zoo Family is genetically significant for the North American Western lowland gorilla population.

Photo Credit: Bill Longo


The Toronto Zoo is the only Canadian Zoo with a reproductive physiologist on staff, Dr. Gaby Mastromonaco, Curator of Reproductive Programs & Research, and is just one of a handful of animal reproductive labs in North American zoo facilities. The work Dr. Mastromonaco and her team do may be referred to as a "bio bank" or a "frozen zoo". The Reproductive Department at the Toronto Zoo collects cell samples, mostly sperm, and are kept frozen at 196 degrees celsius below zero in liquid nitrogen. The Frozen Zoo is home to more than 50 rare and endangered species frozen in genetic time capsules, in hopes that one day scientists could use the DNA to reproduce living creatures. Storage tanks are filled weekly with nitrogen, and a large one is designed to house the samples indefinitely. Millions of frozen sperm could one day form the genetic makeup of Siberian tigers, African lions, snow leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, camels, white rhinoceros, gorillas and komodo dragons, as well as Vancouver Island marmots and wood bison from the Northwest Territories and Alberta.


Dr. Andrew Lentini PhD, Curatorial Keeper  - Amphibians and Reptiles

In 1986, while I was a student at St. Michael's College of the University of Toronto studying biology and physiology, I caught an interview on CBC radio with the Toronto Zoo's Education Officer Merebeth Switzer. She was discussing a new summer camp for the zoo that would be starting that summer. She described the many activities and experiences that campers would have the opportunity to explore at the zoo and it sounded like an amazing program. I had worked in camp programs before and I contacted the zoo and inquired about working in this exciting new camp. I sent in a resume and after an interview, Merebeth hired me as the first Zoo Camp counsellor at the zoo. I worked weekends that spring getting the camp set up. I was designing and ordering T-shirts; developing zoo related educational activities; learning my way around the zoo and getting to know the zookeepers and the amazing animals they cared for. The more I saw of what zookeepers did, the more I knew I wanted to make my career at the zoo. I worked as a Zoo Camp counsellor for two great summers, and after earning my Bachelor's Degree I transferred to the Animal Care Department at the Toronto Zoo in the fall of 1987.  Since then I have worked as a zookeeper in the Canadian Domain, Australasia, Eurasia, Indomalaya and worked with camel rides and bird shows for a period. Since 1996 I have been working in the Wildlife Health Centre as the curatorial keeper for amphibians and reptiles. I work with patients in our hospital receiving veterinary care, and also maintain a quarantine area for newly arrived reptiles and amphibians. I work directly with our curator to manage the zoo's collection of reptiles and amphibians and I work on a number of conservation projects. I am a member of two national recovery teams for threatened and endangered reptiles in Canada and also work with the endangered Puerto Rican Crested toad SSP as the husbandry advisor for this international conservation programme. While working at the zoo I earned a PhD. My research examined the effects of surgically implanted transmitters on the physiological ecology of Massasauga rattlesnakes and was conducted in collaboration with researchers here at the zoo and at York University. I am currently a member of the Massasauga Recovery Team and the Massasauga Species Survival Plan Management Committee. You could say that I believe in the Toronto Zoo!

Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo.  Dr. Andrew Lentini (left).
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