Mother gorilla protectively cuddles her newborn in adorable footage as wildlife foundation celebrates 147th birth in its breeding programme
- Viringika, a western lowland gorilla, gave birth at Port Lympne in Hythe, Kent
- She is so protective that keepers have not had chance to check the baby’s sex
- Viringika scoops baby up in her tree-trunk arms and carries it around the park
This is the heart-melting moment a newborn gorilla snuggles up to its mother after becoming the latest birth in a breeding programme to safeguard the critically endangered species.
Viringika, a western lowland gorilla, gave birth at Port Lympne animal reserve in Hythe, Kent, earlier this month and has been cradling the baby so protectively keepers have not had the chance to even check its sex.
Each time Viringika ventures across the enclosure, she scoops the baby up in her tree-trunk arms and carries it close to her chest.
Western lowland gorillas and their numbers have dropped by more than 60 per cent over the last 20 to 25 years, according to the WWF.
Viringika, a western lowland gorilla scoops the baby up in her tree-trunk arms and carries it close to her chest
The newborn snuggles up to its mother nestling in a pile of hay after becoming the 147th birth in the Aspinall Foundation’s breeding programme
But Aspinall Foundation’s Kent wild animal parks – Port Lympne and Howletts – have steadily been fending off them being wiped out through their breeding programme.
They marked their 147th birth of western lowland gorillas with an adorable video of the mother and baby cuddling.
The baby’s father is silverback Kouillou, with this new infant being the 18th gorilla he has sired.
Phil Ridges, head of the gorilla section at Port Lympne, said: ‘We are absolutely delighted.
‘Viringika is proving to be a great mum, she is being very protective and as yet we have not seen if this new little one is a boy or a girl’.
The Aspinall Foundation has bred and then released hundreds of animals from its animal parks back into the wild, including eight black rhino, 12 grizzled langurs, 90 ebony langurs, 33 Javan gibbons, 11 European bison and more than 70 western lowland gorillas.
Because Viringika is so protective of the newborn (pictured), keepers have not been able to check the baby’s sex
Viringika carries the newborn close to her chest as she moves across the enclosure at Port Lympne
Viringika wraps her hefty arm around the newborn as she relaxes at the Kent wildlife park
Simon Jeffery, animal director at the zoo, added: ‘We are known best for the western lowland gorillas, we are very 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.
Baby gorillas are born helpless and will initially be carried close to their mother’s body for several month until they are old enough to be hauled on her back.
Infants are usually weaned by the time they are three years old, but this can depend on the individual infant and mother.
Western lowland gorillas inhabit some of the most dense and remote rainforests in Africa so it is hard to accurately record exact numbers.
Endangered species: Western lowland gorillas
The western lowland inhabits dense African rainforests such as those in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea as well as in large areas in Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
The exact number left in existence is tricky to pinpoint because they are tough to track in their remote habitats.
Western lowland gorillas can be distinguished from other gorilla subspecies by their slightly smaller size, their brown-grey coats and auburn chests.
They also have wider skulls with more pronounced brow ridges and smaller ears.
Large numbers have not protected the western lowland gorilla from decline. Because of poaching and disease, the gorilla’s numbers have declined by more than 60 per cent over the last 20 to 25 years.
Even if all of the threats to western lowland gorillas were removed, scientists calculate that the population would require some 75 years to recover.