Sunday 25 February 2018

Boy or girl? Mum keeps baby secret close to her chest

Dublin Zoo's latest arrival, a baby western lowland gorilla. Photo: Conor Healy
Dublin Zoo's latest arrival, a baby western lowland gorilla. Photo: Conor Healy
Dublin Zoo's new baby gorilla with its mum Lena. Photo: Conor Healy
The sex of the newborn is not yet known. Photo: Conor Healy
The baby gorilla weighed just 1.8kg at birth. Photo: Conor Healy

Fergus Black

IT weighs less than two kilos, has no name yet and its proud mother is still keeping mum about whether it's a boy or a girl.

Keepers at Dublin Zoo are engrossed in a guessing game about the zoo's latest arrival, a baby western lowland gorilla.

The newcomer -- which weighed in at only 1.8kgs -- was born on Sunday to her 28-year-old mother Lena, just in time for Mother's Day.

But because Lena -- an experienced mum who has now given birth five times -- has been keeping her precious bundle close to her chest since its arrival, keepers so far can't tell if it's a boy or a girl.

The newborn already has four other siblings, three male and one female gorilla. Two of them are in Dublin and the other two are in London and Wuppertal, Germany.

In addition to the new baby gorilla, there have been around 200 new arrivals at the zoo over the last three years. In the past six months alone, the zoo has welcomed a host of new arrivals, including a Rothschild giraffe calf, a southern white rhino calf, a kid goat and pygmy marmoset twins.

"Fingers crossed it's a girl this time," said Ciaran McMahon, the team leader responsible for the gorillas.

"We don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet because Lena is keeping the youngster very close to her, but we should know soon. When we do find out, we'll probably hold a competition to name it."


The zoo has hailed the new arrival as a great success as part of the European breeding programme for this critically endangered primate.

About 150,000 of the species live in the wild in countries such as Angola, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

"Lena is a great mother and so far she hasn't let go of her newborn," said Ciaran.

"She will 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."

He added: "We are one of a few zoos to have a gorilla family living together and we can see that the bonds between the group really are very strong."

All of the zoo's six gorillas will be moving house shortly to a new purpose-built gorilla rainforest in the zoo.

Their new home, which will be ready in September, will be a spacious naturalistic habitat of 12,000 square metres, with dense vegetation.

As a celebration of this gorilla's birth and for Mother's Day, Dublin Zoo will have a range of fun activities taking place this weekend, such as special keeper talks focusing on mums in the zoo, face-painting and arts and crafts.

Extra gorilla-keeper talks will take place on Mother's Day at noon, 2.15pm and 3.30pm.

Irish Independent

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