Dublin Zoo unveils baby gorilla

Wed, Mar 30, 2011, 01:00

The latest arrival at Dublin Zoo is being so carefully guarded by its mother that keepers still can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl.

The as yet unnamed baby western lowland gorilla was born on Sunday afternoon and weighs just 1.81 kilograms (4lbs).

The infant has been cradled constantly by its protective mother Lena since birth meaning that keepers have not yet been unable to identify its sex.

Team leader responsible for the gorillas at the zoo Ciaran McMahon said: "We are over the moon with the birth of the baby gorilla. The new arrival is a great success for Dublin Zoo as part of the European breeding programme for these critically endangered primates.

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

“The youngster is doing very well, within minutes the baby was feeding from mum, Lena, which is a very good sign. We can tell that the infant is strong because there are a lot of head movements," he said.

The youngster joins a band of other gorillas which includes its two brothers Alfie (born 2003) and Evindi (born 2006) and Mayani, a female gorilla who moved to Dublin Zoo from Stuttgart Zoo in 2005.

The zoo's gorillas are due to be moved from their antiquated enclosure in the main part of campus to a new rainforest habitat in the African Plains section in 2012.

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 ground-dwelling primates is estimated to have fallen by more than 80 per cent as a result of commercial hunting and a highly contagious virus called ebola.

To celebrate the birth and for Mother’s Day, Dublin Zoo is offering visitors a range of activities this weekend such as special keeper talks focusing on mums in the Zoo, face-painting and arts and crafts.