There are protective mothers. And then there is Ozala the western lowland gorilla.

Look into her eyes as she cradles her newborn baby and you know she's not going to let anyone mess with the little ape.

Indeed, keepers at Twycross Zoo, Warwickshire, have so far been unable to get close enough to 16-stone Ozala to determine the sex of the infant, born four days ago.

But they are happy that Ozala is feeding and cleaning her baby, an important addition to a species that is said to be on the verge of extinction. There are only 100,000 western lowland gorillas left in the wild.

The zoo is part of a successful primate breeding programme. The youngster, who is likely to be named later in the year, is the fourth offspring born to the 18-year-old female.

After a short, and relatively smooth labour, keepers say mother and baby, which weighs just 2lbs, have bonded and are doing well.

Neil Dorman, curator of conservation programmes and planning at the zoo, said: 'It was a quick, largely uneventful birth, which was great for Ozala.

'Gorillas are very protective creatures, for the first few weeks, even months, the baby with stay very close to mum, she will carry it all the time.

'Even when it starts to become more independent, she won't let it venture very far from her.

'Because she is holding it so close it is very difficult to tell the sex, early indications are it is a boy, but we can't be certain.

'She's being very attentive towards it, cleaning it, feeding it, all the signs are good at this stage.'

Gorillas have been at Twycross Zoo, which is part of the European breeding programme for critically endangered primates, since the 1960s and they have been successfully breeding the animals since 1985.

In 2009 a new 20-year-old male, a dominant silverback named Oumbie, was introduced to Twycross' gorilla 'troop,' which also includes Ozala's mother, Biddy, 38, and her half-sister, Asante, 27.

By that time Ozala had already had two babies - her first born, Matadi, arrived in March 2003 and is now cared for at Paignton Zoo, Devon. Unfortunately, her second baby, a female named Ndoki, who was born in May 2007, died aged just three months.

However, following the arrival of Oumbie, Ozala fell pregnant again and a male Okanda was born last April.

Although Okanda suffered some problems around six months old, when the zoo's vet Sarah Chapman was forced to care for him at home for a spell because he wasn't getting enough nutrients from his mother, he survived and is currently living at Stuttgart Zoo, Germany.

Oumbie is also the father of the new baby, who was born at around 9.15am on Thursday (January 3).

Mr Dorman added: 'This is a really important birth, not just for Twycross and the success of our breeding programme, but also for the gorilla population worldwide.

'They are critically endangered and we need the European breeding programme to ensure the future survival of the species.' Estimates suggest there are just 100,000 western lowland gorillas left in the wild and the species is judged to be one step away from extinction by the World Conservation Union or IUCN.

A 60 per cent decline in numbers in the last 25 years has moved the central African ape's status from 'endangered' to 'critically endangered'.

Forest clearance, which has allowed hunters into previously inaccessible areas, combined with the deadly Ebola virus, has been blamed for wiping out a third of all western lowland gorillas in protected areas in just 15 years.

Responses to "Zoo keepers are unable to get close to newborn gorilla because of its protective mother (Photos)"

  1. Lara says:

    awwww cute :)

  2. Unknown says:

    I wish the mother and her offspring good health

  3. Anonymous says:

    Since mankind is known for taking such good care of its offspring (not) better let the mother do it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Proof that mam knows best!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Mother Love...<3

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why are her other children being taken away from her and living at other zoo's? In the wild they stay together. :(

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is why she isn't letting the baby go, all her other babies have been taken away! Gorillas possess memory and instinct, she knows very well what will happen once she lets him go. If this is a breeding program to increase the gorilla population, then why are the gorillas being traded off or sold to other Zoos??? seems to me this has more to do with turning a profit then the protection of gorillas or increase of their population in the wild.

  8. Anonymous says:

    No wonder she is so protective of her baby, you keep taking her children away from her and placing them in zoos in other countries. I feel sorry for her :-(

  9. Unknown says:

    Wonderful about the baby.. but why is the zoo separating the babies from her (eventually) - it's no wonder that she is protective.. she knows what's coming... :(.

  10. Unknown says:

    Let he babies stay with her... no wonder she is protective, looks like so far ALL her children have been taken from her! Humans... seriously...

  11. Anonymous says:

    Breeding program for the species.... very funny. No doubt the Zoo turns a nice profit and cant be bothered to provide her sufficient nutrition to feed her offspring into the bargain. Shame on all you Zoos who profit from captivity no matter what you say you are really doing. it stinks.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I would guard my baby too, if they are all being snatched away. Humans have no right to keep any of them in captivity. Shame on us as a species.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hello??? the reason they r taking the baby when it gets 2 b a certain age is cuz they r trying 2 expand the population of the lowland gorillas... do y'all not realize that gorillas become sexually mature between 3-5yrs old. if the silver back is the father and the only breeding male in the group... that's inbreeding if he eventually breeds with the 3-5yr old "offspring". gorillas r stronger than 10 adult males, there4, if there's inbreeding going on, that's an inbred gorilla stronger than 10 adult males... can u not c the damage that would do 2 the population of the lowland gorillas?????? come on people... y'all really need 2 use ur head 4 something other than a hat rack!!!

  14. Catherine Keohane-Johnson says:

    Stunning photographs of mother and baby! Such a shame that these beautiful creatures are not able to live as nature intended in the wild. With so much destruction of their natural environment going on and trophy hunters, sadly zoos and parks may be the only place we will eventually see some species surviving in.

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