Remarkable photograph of lowland gorilla and her infant

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Baby gorilla and mother

This is a remarkable photograph by Ben Birchal (distributed by the agency PA) taken at Bristol Zoo last Wednesday of Kala, a western lowland gorilla, and her newborn child. The infant weighs about four pounds and will be dependent upon her mother for five years. The photograph looks like a detailed painting. The light is beautiful.

Baby gorilla and mother

Baby gorilla and mother. Photo: Ben Birchal (PA).

I’d like to add some details to this remarkable photograph. The Daily Mail tells me that at this time the sex of the infant is not known. It can be difficult to sex an infant gorilla apparently. The mother, Kala, is nine years of age. The infant’s father is Jock. At the time of the report, the child was not named.

The birth took place in the Gorilla House at the zoo. Kala was brought to Bristol Zoo from Germany in 2018. She gave birth to her child naturally with the infant’s father nearby. Apparently the keepers discovered the infant nestling in their mother’s arms, both doing well.

The picture is all the more remarkable because of Kala’s intense gaze looking directly into the camera. She is wise and knowing while contentedly holding her newborn child. She seems proud and so she should be and there is an abundance of love between them.

We are told that she is a very attentive mother and very nurturing. The child is doing well and is suckling well apparently. Kala is part of a group of six gorillas at the zoo participating in a breeding programme to help safeguard the future of western lowland gorillas. They are critically endangered in their natural habitat which includes Cameroon, in the west central African region. The western lowland gorilla can also be found in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

Their habit is the dense and remote rainforests of Africa. WWF say that “[a] significant population still exists”. They are slightly smaller than other subspecies of gorilla. They have wider skulls, smaller ears and a more pronounced brow ridge. Poaching appears to be the major threat. Their numbers have declined by more than 60 percent over the previous 20-25 years. It is thought that it would take 75 years to recover their population numbers.

I will presume that they are killed for their meat. Bush meat is still a big issue with respect to conservation in Africa. Comment: it is remarkable to me that humans can kill their very close cousins, the primates, to eat them. That seems to me like a highly uncivilised attitude.