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Taronga's Gorilla Birth Provides Conservation Hope


A tiny female Western Lowland Gorilla has been born at Taronga Zoo. Born to experienced mother ‘Kriba’ on Saturday January 15, the youngster has been named ‘Kipenzi’ which means ‘precious one’ in Swahili. At just ten days old, the infant and mother, Kriba, are both well and visitors can expect to see glimpses of the newborn in coming days. The baby is Kriba’s 5th and the 8th born since the group arrived at Taronga from Appenheul in Holland in December 1996. The Zoo’s Director, Cameron Kerr, said: “With Gorillas under immense pressure in Africa, each birth is a small step in the efforts by world zoos to provide some level of insurance for a sustainable future for these remarkable great apes.”


Photo credits: Ric Stevens / Taronga Zoo

“Taronga is part of the European Species Management Program for these Gorillas. We’re also part of the They’re Calling You Program which encourages people to recycle mobile phones to contribute funds to Gorilla conservation and reduce demand for minerals used in the manufacture of some phones.” The youngster was sired by Taronga’s redoubtable Silverback, ‘Kibabu’. The majestic male, weighing over 200 kg is world-renowned for his outstanding leadership of the Zoo’s Gorilla group.

Primate Keeper, Lisa Ridley, said: “The group is very interested in the newborn. Like humans, much maternal behaviour is learned, so one of the great values of our well-balanced group is the opportunities young females have to watch experienced mothers like Kriba raising her baby.”

“Kriba’s six year old offspring, ‘Kimya’, sister to the newborn is especially interested and stays close to Mum and baby, watching their every move. This is an excellent life lesson for Kimya since in the future she will also play a role in the breeding program, and who better to learn from than your mother?”

“Young males also have a great chance to learn to be an excellent Silverback by watching how Kibabu makes sure the environment is safe and calm for the new arrival.  For male offspring, he is an excellent role model and not above playing with the youngsters when he thinks we’re not looking.  If he sees us watching, he quickly reverts to the serene, watchful Silverback mode.”

In the wild, Gorillas are threatened by habitat loss to illegal mining and logging as well as by forest clearance for farming.  They’re also victims of the cruel pet trade and the unsustainable Bushmeat industry.”

Lisa said: “The roads driven into dense forests where gorillas survive bring with them hunters and poachers. Alarmingly, gorilla and other bushmeat is turning up in Europe where people pay top dollar to eat these endangered animals.”

Taronga’s Gorilla group is changing and in 2013, it is expected Kibabu will be transferred to Orana Park in New Zealand to establish one of the region’s first bachelor groups, imitating what would occur in the wild. A new male, probably from Europe, will take over the group leadership at Taronga.