The Western Lowland Gorilla, born August 18 at BIOPARC Valencia, was recently given a name. The zoo excitedly revealed that the little female’s name would be one that honored and gave recognition to a special place…Virunga.
Formerly known as Albert National Park, Virunga National Park is located in the eastern boundary of the Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Uganda and Rwanda, from the mountains of the same name to the Ruwenzori Mountains. This beautiful wilderness first became a National Park in 1925 and is the most biologically diverse protected area in Africa. With an area of 7,800 square kilometers (equivalent to the province of Barcelona, Spain), treasured habitats as diverse as rainforests, savannah, lava plains, swamps, glaciers and active volcanoes make up the park.
This park is home to the Mountain Gorillas, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in 1979 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. The park is also included on the list of World Heritage sites that are in danger.
Virunga National Park is also popularly known for the movie "Gorillas in the Mist", which focused on the scientific and conservation work with Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), in the Virunga Mountains, done by American zoologist Dian Fossey.
Virunga is home to nearly a quarter of the remaining Mountain Gorilla population (300 of the 880 remaining of this species critically endangered). The other two species of great apes that make their home in the park are: Grauer’s Gorilla and Chimpanzees.
The newly named girl, Virunga, become an important part of the Spanish zoo’s Gorilla troop, when excited zoo patrons witnessed her birth on August 18. Mom, Nalani, and father, Mambie, continue to do a fitting job caring for their new offspring.
The Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is one of two subspecies of the Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) that lives in montane, primary and secondary forests and lowland swamps in central Africa in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It is the Gorilla most common to zoos.
The main diet of the Gorilla species is roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark and pulp, which are provided for in the thick forests of central and West Africa. An adult will eat around 18 kg (40 lb) of food per day. Gorillas will climb trees up to 15 meters in height in search of food.
Females do not produce many offspring, due to the fact that they do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 8 or 9. Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny (weighing about four pounds) and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. The infant will ride on mother’s back from the age of four months through the first two or three years of life. Infants can be dependent on the mother for up to five years.
The Western Lowland Gorilla is classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Population in the wild is faced with a number of factors that threaten it to extinction. Such factors include: deforestation, farming, grazing, and the expanding human settlements that cause forest loss. There is also said to be a correlation between human intervention in the wild and the destruction of habitats with an increase in bushmeat hunting.
BIOPARC Valencia has welcomed the birth of two gorillas in fewer than 4 years. The first birth took place in October 2012 with the arrival of Ebo (brother of Virunga), the first Gorilla born in Valencia.