Friday 23 June 2017

Baby, your father would have been proud

Mother Lena cradles and feeds her newborn baby gorilla at Dublin Zoo. Patrick Bolger
Mother Lena cradles and feeds her newborn baby gorilla at Dublin Zoo. Patrick Bolger
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A doting mother cradles her baby protectively - unsurprisingly, considering she lost her partner just two months ago.

The gorilla, Lena, is welcoming the birth of the healthy baby, which weighed in at 1.8kg, at Dublin Zoo.

Dublin Zoo's latest arrival. Photo: Patrick Bolger
Dublin Zoo's latest arrival. Photo: Patrick Bolger

But so far the keepers have been unable to determine the gender, because Lena is keeping the baby close to her chest.

The baby's father Harry, who was also known as the 'silverback', was the leader of Dublin Zoo's gorilla troop but died unexpectedly in late May.

Lena, who was born in 1984, is an experienced mother and this is her seventh baby.

Helen Clarke-Bennett, leader of the animal care team responsible for the gorillas, said: "We are absolutely thrilled with the birth of the baby gorilla. The youngster is doing very well and is very bright and alert. Within minutes the baby was feeding from mum Lena, which is a very good sign.

Dublin Zoo is delighted to announce the arrival of a bouncing, baby western lowland gorilla. Proud mum, Lena, gave birth to a healthy, baby gorilla in the early hours of Saturday morning. Photo: Patrick Bolger
Dublin Zoo is delighted to announce the arrival of a bouncing, baby western lowland gorilla. Proud mum, Lena, gave birth to a healthy, baby gorilla in the early hours of Saturday morning. Photo: Patrick Bolger

"Lena is a great mother and so far she hasn't let go of her newborn. She will continue to cradle the baby in her arms non-stop for the next two to three months.

"When she does eventually let the toddler out of her arms to explore, the youngster won't go far because Lena will not allow the baby go more than an arm's length away."

Ms Clarke-Bennett said that the new arrival has "put a smile on everyone's face" as the zoo was mourning the loss of Harry.

"Big brother Kituba is taking a keen interest in the new arrival and the rest of the troop has reacted very well," she said. The new arrival is a great success for Dublin Zoo as part of the European breeding programme for these critically endangered primates, she added.

Western lowland gorillas are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The numbers of these primates living in the wild is expected to fall by more than 80pc between 1980 and 2046.

Irish Independent

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