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23/03/2016

A giggling, growing girl - baby gorilla doing well

A giggling, growing girl!

Our baby Western lowland gorilla is now six weeks old and developing well. 

The baby girl has almost doubled her birth weight, now weighing 2.2kgs, has started teething and has even giggled for the first time.

The infant was born after an emergency caesarean procedure – a rare occurrence in gorillas and only carried out a handful of times in the world. She is now being hand-reared round the clock by a small team of experienced gorilla keepers at the Zoo, although she is not currently on show to the public. 

Curator of mammals, Lynsey Bugg, is one of the team looking after the baby. She said: “She is doing really well; she is getting noticeably stronger week by week, which is great. Her arm muscles are becoming more defined, her grip is stronger and she is increasingly alert and attentive. She might be small but she is already showing an assertive side to her personality and grunts and coughs at us if we don’t give her her milk quickly enough!”

Lynsey added: “She is meeting all the targets for her age, continues to feed well and has milk every two hours both night and day, which is pretty exhausting, it’s very much like taking care of a human newborn baby.” 

Gorillas develop in similar ways to human babies, but generally reach milestones much earlier. At four weeks old the baby started teething, at five weeks old she started trying to roll over and she has become increasingly vocal; including giggling for the first time. 

The baby spends all day inside the gorilla house so that she is used to the sounds, smells and sights of the other gorillas and does not become too accustomed to humans. “It is vital that she knows she is a gorilla,” said Lynsey, “so we are doing everything we can to minimise her contact with people and maximise her contact with other gorillas.”

The baby is having to be hand-reared as her mother, Kera, was diagnosed with life-threatening pre-eclampsia prior to the birth and has been too unwell to care for the baby since the caesarean. 

Lynsey explains: “Kera has been very poorly with anaemia and a suspected chest infection, on top of recovering from the pre-eclampsia. There have been a few times when we have not been sure whether she would pull through, it’s been a very delicate recovery for her and she is still not 100 per cent better.”

As part of her intensive treatment, keepers have been administering oxygen to Kera, as well as her receiving a blood transfusion from one of the other gorillas – one of only a few times this has ever been carried out on a gorilla. Staff at the Zoo believe this has been integral in Kera’s recovery. 

Lynsey added: “From the very start we have introduced the baby to Kera and the other gorillas in the group. Kera has shown little interest, probably because she has been so poorly, so we had no choice but to continue hand-rearing the baby. However, the other female gorillas have been very interested in the baby and have displayed good, protective behaviours towards her, which is very encouraging. In light of this, we are now exploring the possibility of one of our other female gorillas fostering the infant. We have also been discussing other options with our colleagues who manage the gorilla European breeding programme.”

View our latest video of the baby here.

Keepers at the Zoo are now looking to name the baby, and are inviting the public to choose their favourite name from a choice of three. The names under consideration are:

1.    Maiombe  (a geographical region in Africa covering gorillas’ native countries)
2.    Afia (meaning ‘Friday born child’ in Ghanaian)
3.    Pianga (Pianga from Pianga-Makeshi, a place in the Democratic Republic of Congo). 

To vote for your favourite name, click here. Please note that the voting will close at midday on Tuesday 29th March.

Please note that, while the gorilla house is open as normal, the baby gorilla is not on show to the public.

 

The gorilla house is kindly sponsored by 

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