Belfast Telegraph

Irish leaders celebrate birth of gorilla at Dublin Zoo

The as yet unnamed western lowland gorilla was born at Dublin Zoo on April 1.

A new baby western lowland gorilla in the arms of her mother Kafi on their island enclosure in Dublin Zoo (Brian Lawless/PA)
A new baby western lowland gorilla in the arms of her mother Kafi on their island enclosure in Dublin Zoo (Brian Lawless/PA)

A new arrival to Dublin’s west has been sent warm wishes from Ireland’s leaders.

The as yet unnamed western lowland gorilla was born at Dublin Zoo on April 1, to first-time parents, mother Kafi and father Bangui.

It is not yet known whether the infant is a boy or a girl, as protective mother Kafi is keeping her baby close to her chest, impeding zookeepers from carrying out examinations.

On April 1, after a gestation period of around 8.5 months, Kafi gave birth to the healthy infant weighing approximately 2-2.5kgs.

One of the many well wishers for Dublin’s newest citizen was Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said he was “glad to welcome a new resident to Dublin’s west”.

Neighbours were also keen to send their congratulations, with Irish President Michael D Higgins, whose home Aras an Uachtarain is situated in Phoenix Park, near the zoo, saying: “My congratulations to our neighbours at Dublin Zoo on this new arrival.”

Zookeepers in Dublin’s iconic zoo are elated with the arrival, and say that the interest from the public is heartening.

“The male only came to us last year, the female came to us seven years ago, but he was incredibly single-minded,” said Helen Clarke, team leader of the African section at Dublin Zoo.

“He doesn’t have a huge amount of experience, even though he’d fathered a child in France, so if he was stepping out of line, the girls ganged up on him, but left him alone if he behaved, but I’d say from day one he had a plan.

“We try to interfere as little a possible, we were expecting the birth in the middle of April, but like all first pregnancies, you can’t nail it down.

“We were checking her daily and there was nothing, then in middle of the day she gave birth.”

Ms Clarke said that despite a shaky start in life, Kafi is a natural with the new addition.

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The baby western lowland gorilla is held by mother Kafi (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Her own mother died when she was eight months old, and she came to us from an orphan nursery, so you can never tell how good they’ll be as mothers.

“We did some maternal behaviour training with cuddly toys, and she always showed positive behaviour, so we weren’t worried.

“With these gorillas, the baby is basically glued to the mother for the first five years, for the first two she’ll never let the baby out of her sight, she’ll let other females hold the baby eventually, in about a year, but they’ll back off until then.

“The male is quite protective too, he’s always watching to make sure the baby is safe, that’s his job.”

The gorillas are already a popular exhibit at the zoo, but Ms Clarke says the new baby has already sparked major interest.

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The tiny gorilla was born to first-time mother Kafi (Brian Lawlesss/PA)

“For the first week, we kept mother and baby separate from the others, mostly due to the weather and we didn’t want to put them under pressure with visitors.

“The first few days we kept her on her own to let her bond, then she went back out last Tuesday.

“Since then visitors have been able to see her and the little one, but she’s spending a lot of time in the bushes, hiding.

“It really catches people’s imagination, they’re so close to human babies, they’re very iconic, we’re expecting lots of visitors to see the new addition.”

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