Zoo Atlanta’s Willie B. Jr. will become a first-time father in 2023

In an exciting continuation of a uniquely Atlanta legacy, the only son of Zoo Atlanta’s most famous gorilla will become a first-time father in 2023. Shalia, a 20-year-old female in Willie B., Jr.’s troop, is expecting an infant.
Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

In a press release issued on Tuesday, Dec. 28, Zoo Atlanta announced that Willie B. Jr. — the only son of Zoo Atlanta’s iconic Willie B. — will soon become a first-time father. A 20-year-old female in his troop named Shalia is expecting, with a due date estimated somewhere between early May and mid-June of 2023.

Willie B. Jr., also known by his given name Kidogo, is the late Willie B.’s third offspring and the only male ever fathered by the legendary gorilla.

Willie B. was a Western lowland gorilla born in the Belgian Congo and brought to the U.S. as a baby. He called Zoo Atlanta home from 1961 until his death in 2000. During his decades in the city, Willie B. became the dominant male of the gorilla group at Zoo Atlanta and was a fan favorite of visitors for his intelligence, calm demeanor and playful personality.

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Through his fame, Willie B. played an essential role in the conservation of other gorillas in the wild as zoo funds were allocated to raise awareness and establish support for gorilla conservation efforts. And his legacy continues today: after his death, Zoo Atlanta established the Willie B. Fund, which raises money to support western lowland gorilla conservation efforts.

For Zoo Atlanta President and CEO Raymond King, the news of Willie B. Jr. and Shalia’s forthcoming baby is an important chapter in the Willie B. legacy, the zoo’s future, and conservation efforts for gorillas around the world.

“We could not be more thrilled to announce that Shalia is expecting. To see Willie B., Jr. become a father is to experience a wonderful new chapter in the story of his father, who came to define Zoo Atlanta in his lifetime and who still lives large in the memories of countless people in our city,” said King. “Importantly, the infant will also be a new member of a critically endangered species that needs our help now more than ever.”

CHECK OUT: Baby gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta; grandfather was Willie B.

Though the baby gorilla will mark the first for Willie B. Jr, the infant will be the 25th gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta since the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest. You can visit zooatlanta.org to plan a visit to see Willie B. Jr and the rest of Atlanta’s gorilla population and learn more about conservation programs and partnerships at Zoo Atlanta.

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