ZooParc de Beauval announced that Sheila, one of its three female Gorillas, gave birth to a baby on October 27 in full view of zoo visitors. The infant is the first Great Ape born in France this year.
So far, the baby and Sheila appear to be doing well. The infant’s gender has not been confirmed, although the staff suspects it is a male. For now, the care team feels no need to intervene or interrupt the bonding process between mother and baby.
Though the baby is nursing and Sheila is exhibiting appropriate maternal behavior, the staff remains cautious because, as with all babies, the first few days are always precarious.
The baby’s arrival created great interest among the other members of the Gorilla troop, who often gather around Shelia and her new baby. The baby’s father is Asato, the troop's large male silverback.
Western Lowland Gorillas are classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Threats include Gorillas being illegally hunted for bushmeat and the prevalence of infectious diseases such as the Ebola virus. Past Ebola outbreaks have resulted in a 95% mortality rate in some Gorilla populations. Conservationists estimate that it could take up to 130 years for the Gorilla population to recover completely. The current population is estimated at a few hundred thousand individuals.
Gorillas’ dire scenario in the wild makes the birth of this infant at ZooParc de Beauval even more important to the survival of the species.