Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Zoo celebrates gorilla birth: Boy or girl? It's a guarded secret as Kamili holds tight to newborn

BY LINDA STEWART

Belfast Zoo's gorilla troop is celebrating the birth of a new arrival – but it could be some time before we know if it's a boy or a girl.

The baby was born to the popular Western Lowland gorilla Kamili on Mother's Day. And the new mum is looking after her small bundle of fur so protectively, staff haven't yet been able to establish its gender.

The baby is the second arrival at the gorilla house in eight months as Baako, who was the first baby gorilla to be born at the zoo in 16 years, arrived on August 3 last year.

The new arrival has joined Kamili (which means 'perfect' in Swahili), Delilah, Kwanza, Baako and father Gugas, the silverback gorilla. It was thought at one point that Gugas would never father any young.

As a young orphaned gorilla, he was acquired by a Portuguese circus and became very ill. He was abandoned at the gates of Lisbon Zoo, and arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1998. He is genetically very important to the European breeding programme as, until this year, he was not represented in the zoo population.

In 2012, with no sign of any pregnancies, the zoo tested Gugas's fertility and the results were not promising. However, he has proved everyone wrong and now shares his home with two bouncing babies.

Zoo curator Julie Mansell said she was thrilled with the latest arrival.

"We are over the Moon with Kamili's baby. We noticed some changes in Kamili last year and after a pregnancy test confirmed our suspicions, we were absolutely delighted," she said.

"After the disappointment of Gugas's fertility results we were astonished to find that Kwanza was pregnant last year, and now he has fathered another infant.

"During the early weeks, the newborn clings to the mother's stomach. Kamili is proving herself to be a fantastic mother, but for that reason she is very protective and it has been difficult for keepers to even get a peek at the baby to determine if it is a girl or a boy.

"Like any expectant family, the keepers have a shortlist of names for the baby and it will be announced soon."

You can support the care of Belfast Zoo's gorillas by taking part in the animal adoption scheme. More information is available at www.belfastzoo.co.uk/adoption

Gorillas are apes and are the largest of all primates. The gestation period for a gorilla is approximately eight to nine months. During the early weeks a newborn gorilla is clutched belly-to-belly for close contact until it develops the strength and coordination to cling onto its mother's back hair (at about two months). A group of gorillas is called a troop. Only two other gorillas were born in the United Kingdom this year, in Blackpool and Howletts.

Further reading

Very small monkeys born at Belfast Zoo

Made in Belfast: first native red squirrel kitten born at Belfast zoo

Who's the daddy! First gorilla born at Belfast Zoo in 16 years is 'little miracle' 

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