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Mother protects new baby gorilla from staff and heat of sun

Published 18/07/2016

Dublin Zoo's new baby gorilla
Dublin Zoo's new baby gorilla

A two-day-old western lowland gorilla born at Dublin Zoo has been shielded by its mother from staff and the heatwave sun.

The healthy youngster was born in the e arly hours of Saturday, just two months after its father Harry died, and weighs in at about 1.8 kilos.

Zookeepers have been unable to determine the baby's gender as 32-year-old mother Lena kept the new arrival - her seventh baby - close to her chest.

And it is likely it will stay that way for weeks as gorilla mothers cradle their young in their arms non-stop for up to three months.

Even when the baby is given some freedom, Lena will have her within arm's reach.

On one of their first days in full view of the public the doting mother kept her newest addition close to her chest, out of the sun and taking full advantage of shade under a tree.

Helen Clarke-Bennett, leader of the animal care team responsible for the gorillas, said: "The youngster is doing very well and is very bright and alert. Within minutes the baby was feeding from mum Lena which is a very good sign."

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered and their numbers in the wild are expected to fall by over 80% between 1980 and 2046 - with commercial hunting and the Ebola virus the two main threats to their survival.

The baby's father, Harry, was a silverback gorilla and the leader of the troop.

He died in May after 21 years with Lena.

Ms Clarke-Bennett said: "It has been a sad time for the team after Harry's death and this has really put a smile on everyone's face.

"Big brother Kituba is taking a keen interest in the new arrival and the rest of the troop has reacted very well. The new arrival is a great success for Dublin Zoo as part of the European breeding programme for these critically endangered primates."

Western lowland gorillas are a little smaller than their mountain relatives.

It has been difficult for conservationists to put a number on how many survive but there are populations in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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