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Zoo celebrates baby gorilla arrival

Staff at a British zoo are celebrating the arrival of a baby gorilla - one of a critically-endangered species.

The baby western lowland gorilla was born at lunchtime on Tuesday at Bristol Zoo Gardens, just in time for the zoo to say goodbye to 61 gorilla sculptures.

The tiny mammal was born by natural birth to Salome and both mother and baby appear to be doing well, a zoo spokesman said.

Senior curator of animals John Partridge said: "We are thrilled with the arrival of a baby gorilla. It is still very early days, but Salome is a great mother and has been cradling and cuddling her baby affectionately.

"Salome keeps the baby very close and we are keen to give the gorillas space, therefore it is still too early to determine the sex of the baby. Naturally the gorilla keepers will keep a very close eye on mother and baby in these crucial first few days and weeks to ensure that they, along with the rest of the gorilla group, are healthy, content and bonding well."

The Gorilla House has been temporarily closed to allow the gorillas, including father Jock, time to bond with the new arrival.

This is the third baby Salome has had at Bristol Zoo. Her last 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.

The youngster, yet to be named, is the perfect gift for the zoo which this year celebrates its 175th birthday.

As part of the celebrations zoo officials placed 61 colourful, life-sized gorilla sculptures around the city in a public art exhibition which captured the public's imagination. Twenty of the sculptures were sent to the capital where they took pride of place on the banks of the Thames outside More London.

The Wow! Gorillas sculptures have now been moved back to Bristol Zoo for a Goodbye Gorillas event ahead of an auction when they will be sold off individually in support of gorilla conservation projects. The charity auction will take place at 7pm in the Victoria Rooms, Clifton, Bristol on September 29.

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