Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Taronga Zoo Welcomes Baby Gorilla
A doting mother and a dad, who couldn't hide his pride, melted Sydney's heart yesterday by parading their newborn for the first time.
Australia's youngest gorilla was welcomed into the world at Taronga Zoo in a flurry of excitement after a visitor noticed the blood on mum Frala's brown coat.
Within an hour, a small army of vets and keepers had descended on the gorilla enclosure to catch a glimpse of the 2kg baby boy.
Taronga's primate supervisor Louise Grossfeldt rushed from home when she got the call, but the family of Western Lowland Gorillas was calm and relaxed by the time she arrived.
"She still had the umbilical cord attached when we came in, but that's normal," Ms Grossfeldt said.
And the baby boy had a strong grip and healthy colour – a good sign for a species that has a 30-40 per cent infant mortality rate.
"The infants when born are just as fragile (as human babies)," Ms Grossfeldt said.
Frala, 26, has given birth six times, but only four of her children have survived.
And if the newborn, who is yet to be named, takes after his father Kibabu he will be popular with the girls later on in life.
"(Kibabu) is the most attractive gorilla in the world," Ms Grossfeldt said. "He's very sexy."
The six-foot, 210-kilogram child of the 70s has sired 13 children and is the Taronga clan's resident silverback – the dominant male and leader.
"Behaviourally, he's perfect," Ms Grossfeldt said. "He's a little bit distant towards the keepers, a little bit aloof. And he'll play with his kids. He is an amazing gorilla," she said.
"He allows the females to gang up on him and he could inflict severe pain if he wanted to."
Frala likes to give her children room to roam.
"Her mothering techniques are a little different to the others," Ms Grossfeldt said. "She makes her kids confident and independent."
Kibabu and Frala's new son, who joins his four-year-old brother Fataki at the zoo, will feed on breast milk alone for around eight months before being introduced to vegetarian solids the rest of his family enjoys.
But gorillas also continue to supplement their diet with breast milk up until the age of four.
He will start to stretch out and crawl from about five months.
Taronga's Western Lowland Gorilla family could eventually be vital to the survival of their species.
Experts fear as much as 90 per cent of the remaining 140,000-strong wild population, which is native to central Africa, could have been wiped out by the devastating Ebola virus.
Taronga, on Sydney's leafy north shore, is home to eight of the species.