Twycross Zoo welcomed a new-born gorilla to its great ape family this week, the birth giving hope to the preservation efforts of one of the world’s most critically endangered species.
The Western lowland gorilla baby was born to long term zoo residents, 22 year old mother, Ozala and 24 year old father, Oumbi. The as yet unnamed addition is the fourth in a line of offspring to come from this parenting duo.
The species, endemic to the remote rainforests of Central Africa, is under constant threat from human encroachment on their natural habitat. Deforestation and illegal poaching have seen their population in the wild decline by more than 60% in the last 20 – 25 years, with scientists predicting complete extinction within the next 20 years or so.
As a designated World Primate Centre, Twycross manages captive breeding programmes for many of the world’s endangered species as well as supporting research on primate health and wellbeing, such as the Ape Heart Project, an international scientific study coordinating health checks of great apes in European zoos.
Dr Charlotte MacDonald, Director of Life Sciences at Twycross Zoo, said: “We are very excited about the arrival of this healthy new born baby, which is a boost for the future of this threatened species. We hope lots of visitors will come to see the baby and its family and learn more about gorillas.”
She added: “Ozala and Oumbi are very experienced parents. This baby is their third, the last being Lope who will be four years old in January. Oumbi is a gentle giant and is often seen playing with Lope, while Ozala is a resourceful, stern and protective mother and is the one who makes sure Lope behaves himself by disciplining him when she needs to. Ozala’s mother, Biddy, is also here at the zoo, so all the family will help look after the new arrival.”
As well as their efforts here in the East Midlands and across Europe, Twycross also run field projects and support organisations focusing on the protection of endangered species in the wild. Ape Action Africa in Cameroon is one such example, housing around 140 rescued and orphaned great apes.
By Jennifer Morris