Baby gorilla born on Mother's Day at zoo

Published Wednesday, 16 April 2014
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This Mother's Day was a very special day for Belfast Zoo's Western lowland gorilla Kamili, as she welcomed a little bundle of joy.

Baby gorilla born on Mother's Day at zoo
The sex of the baby gorilla has not been determined yet. (© Belfast Zoo)

The new baby arrived on Mothering Sunday which also happened to be the zoo's 80th anniversary celebratory weekend.

This is the second arrival at the gorilla house in eight months as Baako, who was the first baby gorilla to be born at the zoo in 16 years, was born on last August.

The new arrival has joined mother, Kamili (which means 'perfect' in Swahili), Delilah, Kwanza, Baako and father, Gugas.

The zoo's silverback gorilla - Gugas - was born in the wild but had an unfortunate start to life as his parents were killed, probably for bush meat.

As a young, orphaned gorilla, he was acquired by a Portuguese circus and became very ill.

He was abandoned at the gates of Lisbon Zoo and was then moved to Stuttgart Zoo to live in a nursery group for orphaned gorillas.

He arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1998 and is genetically very important to the European breeding programme as, until this year, he was not represented in the zoo population.

In 2012, with no sign of any pregnancies, the zoo tested Gugas' fertility and the results were not promising.

In fact, it was felt that Gugas would never father any young. However, he proved everyone wrong and now shares his home with two bouncing babies.

Zoo curator Julie Mansell is thrilled with the latest arrival.

"We are over the moon with Kamili's baby," she said.

"We noticed some changes in Kamili last year and after a pregnancy test confirmed our suspicions, we were absolutely delighted.

"After the disappointment of Gugas' fertility results we were astonished to discover that Kwanza was pregnant last year and now he has fathered another infant we are absolutely overjoyed."

She continued: "During the early weeks, the new-born clings to the mother's stomach. Kamili is proving herself to be a fantastic mother but for that reason, she is very protective and it has been very difficult for keepers to even get a peek at the baby to determine if it is a girl or a boy.

"Like any expectant family, the keepers have been thinking about names in the lead up to the birth and a shortlist has been produced. The name will be announced shortly."

Zoo manager Mark Challis added: "The arrival of our second baby gorilla could not have come at a better time as it was the weekend of our 80th anniversary celebrations and mother's day.

"It's also important to remember the reason why this birth is so important, as almost all apes are either endangered or critically endangered and some professionals have even predicted that all species of ape will be extinct within 30 years.

"Gorilla populations have declined by more than 50% in recent decades and our role, as a zoo, in their conservation is becoming more and more vital."

© UTV News
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