A bright-eyed baby has taken one Belfast-based family troop by storm.
Dubbed a ‘little miracle’, the baby gorilla was born to mother, Kwanza, and father, Gugas, on August 3.
He is the first Western lowland gorilla to be born at the zoo in 16 years.
Father, Gugas, Belfast Zoo’s silverback gorilla, was born in the wild but had an unfortunate start to life as his parents were killed, probably for bushmeat.
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 finally arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1998. Mother, Kwanza, arrived at Belfast Zoo in 2011, from La Valle De Singes in France.
Zoo curator, Julie Mansell, told of her teams “surprise” at the baby gorilla’s arrival after fertility tests on Gugas “were less than promising”.
“You can therefore imagine the entire teams’ delight when we discovered that Kwanza was pregnant with her little miracle,” she said.
She said whilst gorillas are often depicted as ‘king kong’ style monsters, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Gorillas are peaceful, family-oriented animals that live in family groups, called troops. During the early weeks, the newborn will cling on to Kwanza’s stomach. As the infant grows and develops, his strength and co-ordination will improve and he will begin to ride on Kwanza’s back.
Zoo manager, Mark Challis said: “In recent decades, gorilla populations have declined by more than 50 percent and this is predominantly due to threats caused by humans, including bushmeat trade, habitat destruction and viruses. We are delighted that as a zoo, we can play an active role in the conservation of these apes, especially as Gugas’ genetics are so important. We hope that this is the first of many more to come.”
You can help to name the zoo’s latest arrival. Visit www.belfastzoo.co.uk or www.facebook.com/belfastzoo for more details and to place your vote.