The London Zoo saw a new addition to the family when a tiny west lowland gorilla was born on January 17 to mother, Mjukuu, after an approximately eight-and-a-half-month pregnancy.
Gorilla keepers, conducting their daily morning duties, quickly spotted signs that Mjukuu was in labour.
Allowing the experienced mother space, they monitored her via CCTV cameras installed in the dens.
In a heartening scene captured on camera, second-time mum Mjukuu could be seen gently cradling her newborn moments after giving birth in the privacy of their back dens.
“The troop’s curious youngsters, Alika and Gernot, were given the opportunity to examine the intriguing new arrival, adding an extra layer of excitement to the event,” the zoo said in a press statement.
“Our day started as normal – we gave the gorillas their breakfast and began our cleaning routines. When we returned to their back dens, we could see Mjukuu was starting to stretch and squat – a sign that she was in labour,” said Primates Section Manager Kathryn Sanders.
“After a very quick labour, just 17 minutes, Mjukuu was spotted on camera tenderly holding her newborn and demonstrating her wonderful mothering instincts – cleaning her infant and checking it over.”
This birth holds immense significance as the western lowland gorilla, a critically endangered subspecies, has seen a decline of over 60% in wild numbers due to poaching and disease over the last 25 years.
The newborn's father, Kiburi, was on loan to London Zoo from Tenerife in November 2022 as part of the international conservation breeding programme, ensuring the preservation of a genetically diverse and healthy population.
"To say we’re happy about this new arrival would be a huge understatement – we’ve all been walking around grinning from ear to ear," added Kathryn.
The zookeepers plan to give mum and baby ample time and space to bond, with the infant remaining closely snuggled in its adoring mum’s arms for the first six months of its life.
As London Zoo celebrates this heartening addition to the gorilla troop, the story of the swift and tender arrival of this critically endangered infant becomes a beacon of hope in the ongoing battle to conserve these magnificent creatures.
- Gorillas, the largest of all apes, can weigh up to 200kg, approximately the weight of two men.
- Sharing 98.4% of DNA with humans, gorillas highlight our close genetic relationship.
- Gorillas are herbivorous, predominantly feeding on leafy greens.
- While mountain gorillas have seen a 50% increase over the last 30 years, only around 1,000 remain.
- Gorillas have a slow breeding rate, giving birth to a single baby every four to six years, emphasising the importance of each individual.
- The eastern lowland gorilla, the largest and most at risk, faces extinction due to coltan mining, an alloy used in mobile phones. Over 50% of eastern lowland gorillas have been lost since the 1990s.