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Bristol Zoo's baby gorilla celebrates first birthday - 27/09/12

The gorilla family at Bristol Zoo Gardens have been given birthday presents filled with tasty treats to celebrate the baby gorilla’s first Kukena and mum Salome investigate their present birthday.

Little Kukeña is still tiny - weighing around 7kg (approximately 15lbs) and standing at around 45cm tall - but he is getting more inquisitive and adventurous and has developed well over the past year.

To mark the milestone birthday, the Zoo’s family of seven western lowland gorillas have been given birthday presents full of their favourite healthy food and a slice of birthday fruit cake as a special treat.

To see a video of the gorillas enjoying the birthday party, click here:

Assistant curator of mammals, Lynsey Bugg, said: “Kukeña has come a long way over the past 12 months, he is becoming a proper little adventurer and loves to sneak off to explore when mum isn’t looking. Salome is a fantastic mum and is still very protective of her baby boy and keeps a close eye on him as he is still a bit too young to play with the other young gorillas as they tend to like a bit of rough and tumble.”

She added: “Kukeña still takes his mother’s milk but has started eating solids too. He loves soft, sweet fruits such as blueberries, grapes and banana, and also like avocado, so we have given him plenty of these to celebrateKukena's birthday cake his birthday today.”

Although he is developing well, keepers still keep a close eye on Kukeña’s progress, monitoring his growth, hair and body condition, ensuring his eyes are bright and checking his baby teeth.

As well as Kukeñaand mum Salome, Bristol Zoo’s Gorilla Island is also home to silverback Jock; Namoki, seven; Komale, five; Kera; eightand Romina, the Zoo’s other adult female gorilla.

Bristol Zoo is currently carrying out a £1 million project to transform and enlarge its gorilla house. Work includes refurbishing and extending the existing house to provide more than double the amount of space for the Zoo’s growing gorilla family.

The new enclosure, which is due to open next summer, will include climbing facilities, ropes and play equipment and a shallow indoor pool. There will also be additional ‘dens’ for the gorillas with a weighing scale built into the floor. Improved speaker systems will also allow greater communication between keepers and our guests.

The birthday boyThe improved house will also offer a new atrium-style glass entrance lobby for Zoo guests, offering enhanced indoor viewing of the gorillas and a host of new educational and interactive displays.

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 is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

If you would like to donate to Bristol Zoo’s gorilla house project, you can join our text campaign: Text ‘ZOO APE £5’ to70444 to donate £5 (plus your operator’s standard network charge). Bristol Zoo receives 100 per cent of your donation. Don’t forget to obtain the bill payer’s permission. You can also donate online at, by post or in person at the Zoo.  

Kukeñais 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:

Birthday cake provided by Carrie’s Cake Designs



  • 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 by natural birth to Salome on September 27, 2011 and is her third baby at Bristol Zoo.
  • Her previous 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.

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. 
  • Itemploys 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 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.