The first Western Lowland Gorilla born at the Belfast Zoo in 16 years is being called a “little miracle” because his father was thought to be infertile.
The male baby was born to mother Kwanza and father Gugas on August 3. Through an online voting contest, fans named the baby “Baako,” which means “first-born child.” He is thriving in the zoo’s Gorilla habitat.
Because Gugas was born in the wild, he is genetically important to the European Gorilla breeding program. Zoo Curator Julie Mansell explains, “Because Gugas is so important, last year we decided to test his fertility. The results were less than promising and it was suspected that Gugas would never father any infants. You can therefore imagine the entire team’s delight when we discovered that Kwanza was pregnant with her little miracle!”
Gugas had an unfortunate start to life when his parents were killed, most likely victims of poaching for bushmeat. After being acquired and later abandoned by a circus, Gugas finally arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1998 where he joined a social group.
Western Lowland Gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They inhabit forests and swamps in western central Africa. Though they are the most numerous subspecies of Gorilla, Western Lowland Gorillas are threatened by poaching and habitat loss, as well as a significant threat from the Ebola virus, which is an extremely virulent pathogen affecting humans and nonhuman primates such as Gorillas.
See more photos of Baako below the fold.