A critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla was born to mom Mumbe and dad Djala at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park during the early hours of February 26. This is the latest addition to the family group at the park. At this early stage it is too young for keepers to determine the sex.
Head Gorilla Keeper Phil Ridges said, "I am absolutely delighted to welcome this new arrival to our family group. Mumba and Djala are fantastic parents, very protective and caring and the little one is doing very well. Infants are vital to the survival of this critically endangered species and I always look forward to watching them grow and develop."
The Western Lowland Gorilla is critically endangered in the wild. Estimates range from 50,000 to 150,000 individuals remaining; however the true figure is very difficult to guage. It is estimated that if the number of western lowland gorilla continues to decline at the present rate the species may be extinct by 2020.
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This is Mumba’s third birth. Djala, the impressive silverback male of the group, was rescued from the Congo after his family had been slaughtered by poachers. He was just 6 months old and displayed signs of trauma from the abuse he had been subjected to. Since arriving in the UK in 1986 Djala has overcome his traumatic past and after becoming the head of the family group at Port Lympne in 2000, has fathered fifteen babies.
Gorillas breed very slowly; females first breed when they are around 10 years old and give birth to a single infant every four to five years. Newborn gorillas are very small, weighing about 2kg – they are dependent on their mothers much like a human child.
The Aspinall Foundation’s Port Lympne Wild Animal Park and its sister park, Howletts near Canterbury, look after the largest group of western lowland gorillas in human care and this new arrival takes the number of successful births across both parks to a staggering 132.
Phil added: ‘Western lowland gorillas are one of the species that The Aspinall Foundation’s wild animal parks are best known for and we are justly proud of our breeding program, which is the best in the world. As well as caring for gorillas at our parks we also protect them in the wild, and where possible, reintroduce gorillas born at the parks back into their natural environment.’
The Aspinall Foundation which works in conjunction with the wild animal parks in Kent has several conservation projects around the world – the flagship project being in Congo and Gabon where the Foundation protects and manages 1 million acres of land known as the Batéké Plateau, which spans both countries.
"Our flagship project,spanning Congo and Gabon, reintroduces both gorillas from Port Lympne and Howletts, along with orphan gorillas from the bushmeat trade in Africa, back into protected areas in the wild. The Aspinall Foundation has reintroduced 54 gorillas to date and there have been 21 births – a testament to the success of the scheme," said Phil.
To date The Aspinall Foundation has returned 54 gorillas to protected areas in the wild. Of these 43 are wild born orphans from confiscation and rehabilitation programmes and 7 were born at Howletts and Port Lympne. In 2008 a further 3 hand reared gorillas were sent to Gabon from Howletts for eventual release into the wild. In 2004 the first ever infant was born at the project to a gorilla that had been reintroduced.