Twycross Zoo is celebrating the birth of a critically endangered Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The baby, who has yet to be named, was born on 24 September and is the third baby for 22-year-old mother Ozala and 24-year-old father Oumbi.
As well as being a joyous occasion for zoo staff and visitors, the birth is an important part of conservation efforts to save the species, as the number of Western lowland gorillas in the wild has dramatically declined by more than 60% in the last 20-25 years, and scientists predict they will become extinct in the next 20 years or so.
Western lowland gorillas live in the dense and remote rainforests and swamps of Central Africa. However, humans are encroaching on their natural habitat, clearing forests for timber, oil and gas development, as well as mining. The illegal pet trade and poaching for bushmeat sold in markets and smuggled out of Africa also threaten the species.
As well as managing captive breeding programmes to ensure the future survival of endangered species such as gorillas, Twycross Zoo also supports research on primate health and well-being, such as the Ape Heart Project with the University of Nottingham, as well as field projects and organisations which focus on the conservation and protection of endangered species and their habitat in the wild.
One such organisation is Ape Action Africa in Cameroon, a forest sanctuary which is home to around 140 rescued and orphaned great apes, as well as monkeys. Internationally renowned wildlife vet Dr Sharon Redrobe, CEO of Twycross Zoo and Chair of Trustees for Ape Action Africa, regularly visits the sanctuary to administer health checks and, when required, carry out specialist veterinary surgery.
Dr Charlotte Macdonald, Director of Life Sciences at Twycross Zoo said: “We are very excited about the arrival of this healthy newborn baby which is a boost for the future of this threatened species. We hope lots of visitors will come to see the baby and its family and learn more about gorillas.
“Ozala and Oumbi are very experienced parents: this baby is their third, the last being Lope who will be 4 years old in January. Oumbi is a gentle giant and is often seen playing with Lope, while Ozala is a resourceful, stern and protective mother and is the one who makes sure Lope behaves himself by disciplining him when she needs too. Ozala’s mother Biddy is also here at the zoo, so all the family will help look after the new arrival.”
This announcement follows the birth of two Amur cubs, the world’s rarest big cat, at the zoo in June.
Twycross Zoo cares for around 150 species of animals and is the only place in the UK to have every type of great ape (gorilla, orang-utan, chimpanzee and bonobo) and a wide collection of gibbons. The Zoo is open to the public every day from 10.00 to 18.00. For more information, visit www.twycrosszoo.org.
· Gorillas are one of four kinds of great ape. Unlike monkeys, great apes do not have tails. Great apes are also more intelligent, spend more time upright, and spend longer rearing their young.
· Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
· Gorillas mainly eat fruit and leaves, but they also eat nuts, termites and ants.
· In the wild, gorillas live in groups, called ‘troops’, of 10-20 individuals.
· The mature male leader of the troop is called a silverback because of the silver-coloured saddle shape across its back. Males get this saddle at about 12 years old.
· The gestation period for a gorilla is 8.5 months, nearly the same as humans, which is 9 months.
· Scientists predict that all types of great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos) will become extinct in the wild in the next 20 years or so.