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Zoo's C-section baby gorilla meets fellow ape Romina for first time

Published 20/10/2016

Afia, at six months, with keeper Joanne Rudd at Bristol Zoo
Afia, at six months, with keeper Joanne Rudd at Bristol Zoo

A baby gorilla born by Caesarian section eight months ago has begun meeting others in her troop.

Afia, a Western lowland gorilla, has been cared for by keepers at Bristol Zoo since her birth in February.

She has now met the Zoo's 36-year-old female, Romina, while her keepers watched on.

The pair are getting on well and are now spending 24 hours a day together.

Lynsey Bugg, curator of mammals at the zoo, said: "Since day one of Afia's hand-rearing, we have been planning on introducing Afia into the group within her first year to avoid imprinting and a lack of knowledge of gorilla-specific behaviour later in life.

"We had strong indications that both Romina and Afia were ready - Afia was physically and mentally strong enough and Romina was enjoying watching her through the mesh.

"We are absolutely thrilled that they are now bonding and getting on so well. We could tell that both were unsure at first, but they have grown to trust and understand each other.

"It is obviously a very emotional time for her keepers, who have dedicated so much of their time to raising her, but we are all very relieved. This is the exact outcome we were hoping for at this stage."

Initial introductions began last week with the pair being separated by mesh.

Romina's den was then opened just enough for Afia to get through while staff monitored closely.

Over the past few months, keepers have separated Romina in an off-show den for increasing periods of time.

This was to help Romina and the rest of the troop become used to being apart, reading for her to bond with Afia.

During this time, keepers trained Romina to bring a cuddly toy gorilla to the mesh for feeding as well as to put it in a box and walk away if keepers needed to intervene.

All training was successful and keepers were confident that Romina, who has shown maternal instincts towards Afia since birth, was ready to meet her.

Afia was born by emergency Caesarian section on February 12 this year.

Her mother, Kera, suffered complications following the birth and was not well enough to care for her.

Because of this, zoo staff decided to hand-rear her behind the scenes.

This involved feeding throughout the day and night, taking it in turns to take her home overnight and teaching natural gorilla behaviours.

Now that Afia has bonded with Romina, further introductions with the rest of the troop will begin to take place.

Video cameras have been set up inside dens to allow staff to monitor relationships, with keepers and vets on hand should there be the need to intervene.

Press Association

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