Wild animal park staff celebrate birth of rare western lowland ape 

Gorilla’s to be kissed! Wild animal park staff celebrate birth of rare western lowland ape

  • The gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, 139 have been born at Kent zoo 
  • There are between 50,000 and 150,000 of the apes in existence in whole world
  • If numbers continues to decline at this rate the species may be extinct by 2020

Staff at a wild animal park are celebrating the birth of a rare western lowland gorilla as the apes face potential extinction.

The baby, which has not been named yet, was born at the Howletts Wild Animal Park near Canterbury, Kent – renowned around the world for its popular breeding sanctuary.

The infant, born last Saturday, is mother Dihi’s fifth offspring – but for proud dad, Ebeki, this is his first and he is reported to be taking to his new fatherly role very well.

The infant – pictured – has not yet been named and is the 139th to be born at the animal park near Canterbury, Kent

Mother Dihi and the baby, born on May 12, are pictured at the zoo in Canterbury which is part of the conservation charity The Aspinall Foundation 

Lorna Wanless, Head of Gorilla Section at Howletts said: ‘We’re absolutely thrilled! Dihi is a lovely gorilla and an experienced mother. Both Dihi and her baby are doing very well.

‘Although silverbacks tend not to get physically involved in raising their young, it’s great to see Ebeki taking an interest in the little one from a distance and being naturally protective of both mum and baby.’

The popular wild animal park is part of the world leading conservation charity, The Aspinall Foundation which is committed to returning animals born at its Kent based wild animal parks – Howletts and Port Lympne Reserve, to protected areas of their natural habitat as part of their vital conservation efforts.

Mum Dihi and the baby, born on May 12 which has not been named yet

The birth brings the number of births there to a record-breaking 139. Adrian Harland, Animal Director added: ‘Western lowland gorillas are one of the species that we are best known for and we are justly proud of our breeding programme.

‘As well as caring for gorillas at our parks we also work closely with The Aspinall Foundation to protect them in the wild, and where possible, reintroduce gorillas born at the parks back into their natural environment.’

The conservation charity, headed by dedicated conservationist Damian Aspinall – son of founder John Aspinall – has returned more than 80 western lowland gorillas to their forests of Congo and Gabon.

He is responsible for not only rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned gorillas in Africa but also protecting more than one million acres of wilderness, where they have successfully habituated gorillas born at the wild animal parks in Kent.

Mr Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation said: ‘Habituating captive born animals back into the wild is vitally important, and it’s what we at The Aspinall Foundation are dedicated to achieving. 

‘It’s not just what we are doing with gorillas but because we protect the gorillas, we protect the whole forest and by protecting the whole forest, we protect the whole ecosystem. 

‘So, doing one incredibly difficult thing – introducing gorillas back into the wild, has a knock-on effect, so it’s vitally important.’

The proud parents are said to be taking to the role well as the zoo combats the potential extinction of the apes 

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild. Estimates range from 50,000 to 150,000 individuals remaining; but the true figure is very difficult to gauge.

It is estimated that if the number of western lowland gorilla continues to decline at the present rate the species may be extinct by 2020.

  

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