This baby gorilla was one of her species's last hopes. She died after six days.

The baby gorilla from a critically-endangered population, the western lowlands, was once thought to be the shining hope for her rapidly-disappearing subspecies. She was just six days old. She didn't even have a name yet. But she just passed away at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.

Described as "lethargic" and "weak" by staff at the New Orleans Audubon Zoo, the newborn gorilla died under mysterious circumstances that have yet to be identified. This is a huge blow, not just for those everywhere who care about animals, but also for her grieving gorilla parents.

While it's clear that the staff at the Audubon Zoo were also heartbroken over the infant's loss, it's also obvious that zoos are not places where animals belong. Sign the petition to demand that the Audubon Zoo do right by its remaining four gorillas and transfer them to a reputable sanctuary, where they can live out their days in peace!

Zoos are a money-making scheme, set up to trap large animals that should be free into small containers, all so that humans can walk around ogling them. This is equally true of the Audubon Zoo. In fact, the tiny ape's birth was hugely anticipated — not only because of her importance to her entire subspecies, but also because of the promotional and marketing opportunity she provided for the zoo.

Experts with the International Union for Conservation of Nature have labeled western lowland gorillas as critically endangered. The animals' population has plummeted by more than 80 percent — and it's all due to human activity. Poaching and other forms of illegal hunting. Habitat destruction for houses, logging, and farming. Diseases. These are just some of the many ways that our species has actively caused the near-extermination of these gorillas, some of our closest cousins on this earth.

In theory, this is why zoos exist, since according to their proponents, zoos are all about "conservation" efforts. Yet no new gorillas have been born at the facility in 24 years. Of the Audubon Zoo's four current gorillas, three were "acquired" from other U.S. zoos over the past three years.

The time and care that staff members invested into preparing the baby's parents, Tunami and Okpara, for her arrival doesn't erase this basic fact of exploitation. However, it does show how deeply aware the gorillas were about their upcoming parenthood.

Tunami and Okpara were coached for months on, essentially, what to expect when they were expecting. A birth team provided the mother- and father-to-be with a canvas doll meant to resemble a baby gorilla in order to teach them how to position and care for their daughter. The team even went so far as to train a fellow gorilla at the zoo in case she needed to step in as a foster mother, should Tunami not be able to bond with or take care of the newborn.

Sweet Alafia — the western lowland gorilla who was instructed in how to foster-parent the newborn baby — was actually ripped away from her own daughter at a different U.S. zoo. Alafia previously lived at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, where she was born. Then, years later, she became a mother when she gave birth to Naku.

But Alafia wasn't allowed to remain bonded with her child. She was transferred — traded — to the Los Angeles Zoo. After nine years at their facilities, she was transferred to the New Orleans Audubon Zoo, where she was forced to watch another mother, Tunami, go through the struggles of pregnancy and birth — only to see the new little one die.

Gorillas are nearly-human animals. Trading them, acquiring them, separating them from their families — this is all grotesquely inhumane. It's clear that zoos, including the Audubon Zoo, aren't living up to their mission of helping the animals. That point just became even clearer after the death of Tunami's unnamed baby.

We must conserve endangered animals. But zoos are obviously not the solution.

Speak out for the sweet little gorilla baby who died, as well as her parents and her whole gorilla troop. Demand that all the gorillas at the Audubon Zoo be transferred to a legitimate, reputable sanctuary!
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