A critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla born at the Belfast Zoo on August 28 is a girl!
Because baby Gorillas cling to their mother’s belly for the first few months of life, keepers were unable to determine the baby’s gender until now. The baby has been named Olivia.
Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo
Olivia’s arrival is significant because her father, Gugas, was born in the wild and his genetic background is important to the zoo population. But Gugas had an unfortunate start to life as his parents were killed, probably for bushmeat. As a young, orphaned Gorilla, he was acquired by a Portuguese circus and became very ill. He was abandoned at the gates of Lisbon Zoo and was then moved to Stuttgart Zoo to live in a nursery group for orphaned Gorillas. He arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1998 and in 2012, with no sign of any pregnancies, the zoo tested Gugas’ fertility and the results were not promising. In fact, it was felt that Gugas would never father any young.
“Gugas has defied the odds. In fact he has had an extremely busy few years, as this is the third infant that he has fathered since 2013,” says Julie Mansell of the Belfast Zoo.
The Belfast Zoo’s Gorilla breeding program is part of a global effort to create a safety net population should this species become extinct in the wild – a very real possibility, given that Gorillas are under threat from habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, the pet trade, trophy hunting, and other human activity.
Western Lowland Gorillas come from the dense forests of western central Africa. Gorillas are the largest of all primate species. They are listed as Critically Endangered, with the wild population shrinking by 80% within the past three generations.