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Bristol Zoo’s baby gorilla finds his feet

Press release

4 May 2012 

Baby gorilla Kukeña with mum Salome at Bristol Zoo, credit Bob PitchfordBristol Zoo’s baby western lowland gorilla is starting to find his feet as he learns to walk.

Little Kukeña is still tiny and has not left his mother’s side in the seven months since he was born. But now he has started taking his first tentative steps and is growing in confidence.

Although still very wobbly, Kukeña can pull himself up onto his back legs and can walk on all fours, under that watchful eye of mum, Salome.

Mammal keeper, Alan Toyne, said: “Kukeña is making fantastic progress and is developing well. It’s great to see him starting to walk and becoming more independent, although he will be reliant on mum for a long while yet.

“He is getting more and more active but still stays very close to Salome who is still very protective, particularly when the other gorillas are around. She will let him venture a few metres away from her when they are alone, but keeps him much closer when the other young gorillas are around as they tend to like a bit of rough and tumble.”

As well as getting physically stronger, Kukeña is also starting to nibble on soft foods such as banana in addition to drinking Salome’s milk which he will continue to take until he is around three years old.

To see a short clip of Kukeña as he first tries to stand by himself, click here:

As well as Salome and Kukeña, Bristol Zoo’s Gorilla Island is also home to silverback Jock, who is father to Kukeña; Namoki, six; Komale, five; Kera; seven and Romina, the Zoo’s other adult female gorilla.

The name Kukeña means ‘to love’ and comes from the language of the Lunda Tribe from North West Zambia. The tribe originates from the Congo, where western lowland gorillas are found in the wild.

Kukeña was born on September 27, 2011, by natural birth to Salome – her third baby at Bristol Zoo. Her last baby, Komale, was born in December 2006 following a course of ground-breaking fertility treatment, pioneered by Bristol Zoo’s former head vet, Sharon Redrobe. This time however, Salome conceived her baby naturally.

To see a video of Kukeña filmed shortly after he was born, visit

The gorillas at Bristol Zoo are part of an international conservation breeding programme for the western lowland gorilla, which is a critically endangered species.

All gorilla species are facing serious losses in the wild caused by a number of issues including forest destruction for logging, diseases such as ebola and the slaughter of primates for the illegal bushmeat trade.

Bristol Zoo Gardens has, for many years, supported Ape Action Africa, a charity working hard to prevent primate extinction in Cameroon, through caring for confiscated orphans of the bushmeat trade, and educating people about the bushmeat trade and habitat destruction.

Kukeña is available to adopt by members of the public, along with his brother Komale. For more information, visit or phone 0117 974 7300.


Notes to the Editor:

Bristol Zoo Gardens

·         Bristol Zoo is open from 9am every day except Christmas Day. 

·         Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on income from visitors and supporters to continue its important work. 

·         Bristol Zoo is involved with more than 100 co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species. 

·         It employs over 150 full and part-time staff to care for the animals and run a successful visitor attraction to support its conservation and education work. 

·         Bristol Zoo supports – through finance and skill sharing - 15 projects in the UK and abroad that conserveand protectsome of the world’s most endangered species.

·         In 2011 Bristol Zoo celebrated its 175th birthday. Over that past 175 years, the Zoo has brought six generations of Bristolians closer to wildlife, helped save over 175 species from extinction, established over 30 field conservation and research programmes all over the world, showed 40 million school-aged children the wonder of nature and given more than 90 million visitors a wonderful day out.

·         In 2010 Bristol Zoo Gardens set up a Conservation Fund to raise vital funds to help care for threatened animals and plants – both in the Zoo and through the conservation work we do in the UK and around the world.

·         Bristol Zoo Gardens is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. BIAZA represents more than 90 member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.