The baby gorilla
The baby gorilla
PA Wire

A four-month-old baby gorilla has been pictured at Bristol Zoo Gardens ahead of the site’s reopening on Monday.

The tiny western lowland gorilla, which has not yet been named, lives on the zoo’s Gorilla Island with mother Touni, 13.

Touni gave birth naturally to the male baby in the early hours of December 22, with father Jock and the rest of the family troop nearby.

He is Touni’s second baby, as she gave birth to big sister Ayana – who still lives at the zoo – in April 2017.

The gorilla will not be weaned until he is around four years old (Ben Birchall/PA)

Zookeeper Zoe Grose said: “She’s a very experienced mum and she’s doing a great job.

“We’ve seen him coming off mum a bit more regularly now. He’s quite curious so he’s off seeing the other members of the group.

“He’s never too far away from mum. She’s always got one hand on him and she’s always close by, especially with the youngsters who want a bit of practice so they always try and get the babies and go off with them.

“We have seen his older sister carrying him so that’s quite nice to see. His mum is quite a dominant female in this group so she makes sure that they know what the boundaries are.”

The new arrival has mainly been away from public view since his birth due to lockdown but visitors will be able to see him from Monday, when the zoo reopens as coronavirus restrictions ease.

Ms Grose said they will see the infant spending time with Touni and feeding from her, as he will not be weaned until around four years old.

Mother Touni keeps a close eye on her baby (Ben Birchall/PA)

The two young female gorillas on site will also be seen close to the mother and baby, as they learn the skills they will need when they have their own babies in the future.

“We’re really excited to have everyone back,” Ms Grose said.

“We want to share our wonderful animals that we get to spend our days with.

“It’s been quite a long time and a very strange year not to have the public around.

“It’ll be really nice and exciting to share a new addition of the group and all of our information, it’s a really special thing to be able to share that with the public.”

She said the gorilla troop have become used to people “coming and going” over the past year, though staff have remained on site throughout.

“During the first lockdown particularly, they were very confused as to why there weren’t people around and would regularly sit outside waiting for our public talks,” Ms Grose added.

“I think they’ve got used to it now but they’re very adaptable animals so I think they’ll enjoy people being able to see them outside again.”

The gorilla will soon be learning how to walk and crawl (Ben Birchall/PA)

Gorilla babies usually remain with their mother until the age of three or four, sharing a nest and feeding until then.

From four to six months, they begin to nibble on small pieces of food and learn how to walk and climb.

The new baby is important in helping to safeguard the future of western lowland gorillas, which are critically endangered in the wild.

Bristol Zoological Society, which operates both Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Wild Place Project, is part of an internationally important breeding and conservation programme.

For more than 20 years, the society has supported a sanctuary in Cameroon which helps look after orphaned gorillas and chimpanzees.

Gorillas are hunted for their meat and their young are regularly taken and sold as pets, often to end up abandoned or dying of starvation.

Last year, Bristol Zoological Society – a registered charity – launched a fundraising appeal to support its work during the pandemic.

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