Baby gorilla born at Antwerp Zoo
Baby T was born rather unexpectedly this week at the zoo in Antwerp, part of a breeding programme of the critically endangered Western lowland gorilla
The baby belongs to a group of Western lowland gorillas, a subspecies of the Western gorilla. While all species and subspecies of gorillas are endangered in the wild, the Western gorilla is considered critically endangered. It is native to Congo, Cameroon and several other countries in western Africa.
The zoo is involved in a number of breeding programmes for endangered species, including the Western lowland gorillas. Mother Mayani gave birth to the baby on Tuesday in the zoo’s Valley of the Great Apes section.
Mayani joined the band of gorillas at the zoo just last year. She is the eldest female and so was paired with the male gorilla Matadi in the hope that she would become pregnant.
Mayani is exhibiting all the normal behaviour of a new mother gorilla, and Matadi has not left her side, said the zoo, following her wherever she goes. The rest of the band has all remained calm and normal since the blessed event.
Mayani is keeping the baby close to her chest, so caregivers have not yet been able to determine the sex of the baby. And the birth came as somewhat of a surprise. It was unwitnessed by zookeepers, who were expecting it to happen later in December.
“We arrived in the enclosure, and Mayani came to say hello,” said Julie, one of the gorilla’s caregivers at the zoo. “I thought: What does she have there? Then I saw a tiny, little hand. I could not believe what I saw!”
What goes on behind closed doors when we’re not looking is anyone’s guess
The last time the zookeepers were aware of a mating put the due date two to three weeks from now. “But yeah, what goes on behind closed doors when we’re not looking is anyone’s guess.”
The baby will be named after the sex is determined. In keeping with the tradition to name new babies starting with the same letter in any given year and related to its country of origin, the baby will get an African name starting with ‘T’.
Unlike the zebra recently born in Planckendael, which is being kept mostly indoors in freezing weather, the entire gorilla family is on view to zoo visitors.
Photo: Jonas Verhulst/Antwerp Zoo