Como Park Zoo has a new member of their family. This adorable little western lowland gorilla was welcomed into the troop on February 22, 2015. Mother Dara gave birth in the early hours of the morning in the Gorilla Forest exhibit day room.
Weighing in at approximately 2.2kg (5lb) the young gorilla was healthy and strong at birth. It wasn’t a given though. Keepers didn’t see any nursing in the first few hours of the babies life. Three days after the birth zoo staff along with medical and veterinary professionals gave the baby a physical and fluids. Soon after the infant was reunited with mum and it was seen nursing. Zoo staff are keeping a close on mum and bub.
Keepers wanted to keep the infant with mum. They would not have removed it unless it had been compromised or Dara had not shown a mothering instinct.
The baby has been named Arlene after the late Arlene Scheunemann. She was often called Como’s “Zoo Mum”. This name was inherited due to how she fostered 200 wild animals along with raising four human children. She started caring for baby animals in 1968 and continued this for 45 years.
She looked after the care and feeding of newborns such as tigers, orang-utans and gorillas before the time when these animals could be cared for at the zoo. She worked hard to improve the lives and safety of animals including raising funds to improve the zoo. You can learn more about her story in Zoo Mom: The Life of Arlene Sceunemann which was released in May 2014.
Dara was pregnant for eight and half months. The baby is born near helpless and clings to the mothers fur for the first three months of its life. After 6 months she will move onto the mothers back where she will get carried around. She will spend the first few years of her life with Dara.
“Gorillas are very family oriented,” as senior keeper, Jo Kelly explained. “Mom will let other family members see the baby and they will take their cues from mom as to how close they can be.”
The father of the baby is Schroeder, a 29 year old silverback gorilla. He has lived at Como Zoo since 1991. Other troop members include 26 year old Nne and 12 year old Alice who. Alice and Dara came to the zoo to be part of the SSP. This is a program between 52 zoos that aims to maintain genetic diversity through good management.
Keepers will continue to look over the babies as out of 437 births since 1980 26% of males and 20% of females did not see their first birthday. First time mothers have a 50% higher infant mortality.
Western lowland gorillas are a critically endangered species from the lowland forests of Central and Western Africa. They are under threat due to hunting for their meat, habitat loss and disease.
Photo Credits: Como Park Zoo and Conservatory