Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Announces First Birth of a Gorilla in its 139-Year History

04, November, 2021

Arrival Coincides with Launch of Long-Term Partnership with CrossCountry Mortgage; Organizations to Collaborate in Naming Event, Other Support of Zoo’s Newest Resident.

CrossCountry Mortgage and Cleveland Metropark Zoo partnership logo A baby gorilla holding onto the troop's female leader at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo today announced the birth of a male gorilla, the first born at the Zoo in its 139-year history. Cleveland Metroparks also announced a long-term partnership with Cleveland-based CrossCountry Mortgage that will include a public naming opportunity of the new gorilla, an exclusive video series featuring updates on the growth and development of the infant, and an array of other activities.

The western lowland gorilla was born the morning of Oct. 26, 2021, to mom, Nneka (23), and dad, Mokolo (34). When Nneka did not show appropriate maternal care, the troop’s eldest female, Fredrika or “Freddy” (47), who herself has raised four infants, instinctively took over maternal care of the newborn.

“We’re thrilled to announce the birth of this gorilla, the first in our history, as we also look ahead towards the future at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo,” said Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian M. Zimmerman. “Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has been an international leader in gorilla research, care and management and our newly announced multi-year partnership with CrossCountry Mortgage will bring new engagement and other exciting opportunities to our zoo as well as all of Cleveland Metroparks."

Weighing 3 to 4 lbs at birth, newborn gorillas are in almost constant contact with their mother for the first six months and nurse for about three years. Over the past several days, Freddy has been bringing the newborn to be bottle fed by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s animal care team. The team worked with the gorillas using positive reinforcement training techniques, through a protective barrier, to facilitate cooperative participation in the supplemental feeding of the infant. The technique allows the infant to stay with the gorilla family at all times to allow proper physical development.

In the coming weeks, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and CrossCountry Mortgage will reveal a public naming opportunity as well as a video series documenting the infant’s development and troop dynamic.

“Cleveland Metroparks and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo have enriched the lives of millions of Northeast Ohioans and are among the select group of area institutions that define what it means to grow up and live in this great city,” said CrossCountry Mortgage Founder and CEO Ronald J. Leonhardt, Jr. “We entered into this partnership to help make Cleveland and its dynamic park system and zoo must-see destinations for visitors of all ages for decades to come.”

In addition to the upcoming public naming opportunity and video series, the partnership with CrossCountry Mortgage will include multi-year support of new public events, programs, art displays, and more designed to expand recreational and educational opportunities across all of Cleveland Metroparks and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is a long-term leader in gorilla research, care and management including spearheading the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program across all accredited zoos of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo also works closely with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and Zoo experts help train young Rwandan scientists at the Karisoke Research Center and protect the 200 gorillas in the Nkuba-Biruwe Conservation Area. Only 1,000 mountain gorillas remain in two populations in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Fewer than 8,500 Grauer’s gorillas remain in DRC.


CrossCountry Mortgage, LLC is a top 10 retail mortgage lender in America, founded in 2003 by CEO Ronald J. Leonhardt, Jr. The company has more than 6,000 employees and licenses in all 50 states. A direct lender and approved seller and servicer by Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae, CCM offers a broad portfolio of home purchase and refinance programs ranging from conventional and jumbo mortgages to government-insured programs for Veterans and rural homebuyers. Additional options include down payment assistance, home equity products, and expedited closing programs. CrossCountry Mortgage is on the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies and a recipient of several other local and national awards for sales and growth. For more information, please visit

About Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is a nationally-recognized leader among zoos and aquariums in North America with over 2,000 animals across 400 species from around the world. The Zoo specializes in animal care, education and research and is certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Visit for more information.