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Zoo to throw birthday party for its latest 2-year-old

Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 14:01 PM.

GULF BREEZE — It seems like a short time ago Gulf Breeze Zoo visitors were staring into a glass nursery watching a newborn gorilla learn to eat, drink and become like his mom.Kigali will celebrate his second birthday this Saturday, and the zoo is throwing a birthday party complete with a special cake, gorilla-sized birthday card and presents.“I can’t believe that he’s already turning 2,” zoo curator Tenielle Welch said during a recent tour of the zoo’s babies. “It seems like yesterday I was crawling on the ground with him on my back.”

Kigali was born Jan. 23, 2012, after he was delivered by caesarian section from his mother Rwanda.

The then-27-year-old gorilla did not produce enough milk to care for the infant on her own. Zoo keepers worked around the clock after Kigali’s birth to prepare him to return to his mom.

The two were united in October 2012 and have been inseparable since.

“She is a wonderful mother,” Welch said. “She’s extremely protective and he’s got her wrapped around his little finger. If he makes a noise, she’s running up to him so see what he needs.”

Kigali and Rwanda will remain together until Kigali reaches maturity at age 12. After that, administrators will discuss whether to move him to another zoo or keep him.

“Ideally, he’ll be here for the rest of his life,” zoo Director Kayte Wanko said in January 2013.

Saturday’s birthday party will begin at 1 p.m. Visitors will learn facts from zoo employees on Kigali’s growth and future.

For more information, call the zoo at 932-2229.

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Angel McCurdy at 850-315-4432 or amccurdy@nwfdailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @AngelMnwfdn.

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