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First Natural Primate Birth in Barcelona Zoo

Posted on 06 March 2010 by dianew

"Snowflake", the albino gorilla
Image via Wikipedia

A daughter of the famous white gorilla, Snowflake,  gave birth within the group and is being kept together with her baby.

Snowflake had 21 offspring, so the birth of a grandchild may not seem especially newsworthy. The fact is that the birth, on the 28th of February, to Machinda, daughter of the albino gorilla, (after 260 days pregnancy) marks a ‘before and after’ in primate reproduction in Barcelona zoo. It is the first time that a female gorilla has given birth within the group, and not been separated from her offspring . The little one is so protected by the mother and the group, that zookeepers still do not know the sex, something which could take months to reveal, until the baby is released from the arms of it’s mother.

“To arrive at this point is possible thanks to the work of many years” explains Lluis Colom, head keeper at the zoo. Until now, to guarantee the survival of newborns, the females were separated and slept alone. “Breastfeeding has to be learned, is not inborn, as is commonly believed. Until now the females of the zoo, as they were born in captivity, didn’t know how to nurse, and if we didn’t separate them, the infant could die” explained zookeeper Maria Teresa Abelló, whose job it is to do this. ” This will be the first generation of primates nurtured by the mother under the vigilance of the father, in an atmosphere as close as possible to that which they would live in liberty” she added.

Machinda, the 31-year-old female, is mother to 6 gorillas, three of which live in the zoo. ” It has also been very interesting to watch the behaviour of Ngoro, the oldest brother, who has behaved like the ‘Macho’ of the group, protecting his mother” said the keeper.
Lluis Colom made it clear that gorillas are a species in grave danger of extinction (in five years they could disappear) and underlined the importance of allowing their reproduction in the most natural way possible.

Children Invited To Name the Newborn

There are four candidates as names for the little one; Babule (meaning Tender) Engom (March) Kikile (Soon) or Nvom (Luck) . The names are in Fang, the language off Equatorial Guinea, the country Snowflake originally came from.

In front of the cage, zookeepers have stalled an urn, where visitors to the zoo can choose which of the four options they think should be given to the little primate. The most voted name will be given to the little gorilla, whose face so far has been very difficult to see, as the mother does not loosen her grip  for a second.

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