The number of critically endangered western lowland gorillas in the world has increased by one after a birth at Bristol Zoo in the UK.
The arrival tops off a successful few days for zoo breeding programs of endangered and threatened animals around the world with the birth of twin golden lion tamarins — also at Bristol Zoo — and a new wiggling cub for giant panda Mei Xiang at National Zoo in Washington, US.
WESTERN LOWLAND GORILLA
Nine-year-old western lowland gorilla Kala gave birth to the baby gorilla in the middle of the night while father Jock watched on.
Zookeepers later arrived to find Kala nursing her newborn.
“There is something very special about seeing a newborn baby gorilla, they are such an iconic and charismatic* species,” Bristol Zoo mammals curator* Lynsey Bugg said.
“We are all thrilled … she is being very attentive and taking good care of her baby,” Ms Bugg added.
“It’s very early days but we are cautiously* optimistic. The early signs are good and the baby looks to be a good size and is strong.”
The infant gorilla joins an existing troop* of six as part of a breeding program at the zoo.
Western lowland gorillas, the smallest of the four gorilla subspecies, are critically endangered due to poaching, habitat loss and disease. Scientists believe up to a third of the species may have died in the early 2000s from a disease called ebola.
GOLDEN LION TAMARINS
This week the zoo also welcomed twin endangered golden lion tamarins, primates from the coastal forests of Brazil.
It was the fourth time the mother had given birth to twins but the first time they both survived.
These social animals, which live in family groups in trees, are classified as endangered due to habitat loss. The forests they live in are logged and cleared for farming.
Delivering a “much-needed moment of pure joy,” giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a wiggling cub on Friday at the National Zoo in Washington, US, as bad news about the global pandemic dominates headlines around the world.
An experienced mum, “Mei Xiang picked the cub up immediately and began cradling and caring for it,” the zoo said in a statement. “The panda team heard the cub vocalize*.”
Panda lovers around the world were able to see the birth on the zoo’s Panda Cam.
“Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and with the birth of this precious cub we are thrilled to offer the world a much-needed moment of pure joy,” said Steve Monfort of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
Mr Monfort said Mei Xiang’s age — 22 — made her chances of giving birth to a cub slim. “However, we wanted to give her one more opportunity to contribute to her species’ survival,” he said.
She is the oldest giant panda to successfully give birth in the US. The oldest in the world gave birth in China at age 23.
Mei Xiang gave birth in a small den, where she created a nest out of branches like she would in the wild. “They stay in these dens for about the cub’s first 100 days,” the zoo posted on Instagram.
Just a few days before the birth, the zoo posted an image from Mei Xiang’s ultrasound* that confirmed the pregnancy. “Keep your paws crossed!” the zoo posted.
“We need this! We totally need this joy,” zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said when the pregnancy was confirmed. “We are all in desperate need of these feel-goods.”
Giant pandas at birth are about the size of a chocolate bar. They’re pink and hairless; the distinctive black and white fur markings of giant pandas come later.
Mei was impregnated via artificial insemination*. The father is giant panda Tian Tian, who also lives at the National Zoo.
SOUTHERN HAIRY-NOSED WOMBAT
Keepers at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, NSW, have welcomed a female joey southern hairy-nosed wombat.
The joey, named Wanyi, has just started emerging from her mother’s pouch.
Wanyi translates to ‘girl’ in the indigenous Wirangu language. She was born to mother Jedda and father, Noojee in September but spent longer than usual in her mother’s pouch, said Australian Fauna Keeper Bec Russell-Cook.
“It has been so intriguing* to watch Jedda as a mum and compare her mothering techniques to our other breeding wombats here at Taronga. Unlike our other female wombats, she is quite a protective mother and was carrying Wanyi around in her pouch a lot longer than our previous wombat mothers, to the point where Wanyi didn’t quite fit in her pouch anymore and her legs were hanging out,” said Ms Russell-Cook.
As marsupials, both southern hairy-nosed and northern hairy-nosed wombats are born the size of a jelly bean and spend the first months of their life in their mother’s pouch.
Southern hairy-nosed wombats are classified as near threatened as their numbers continue to decline in the wild. Northern hairy-nosed wombats are critically endangered.
- charismatic: an attractive personality
- cautiously: carefully, not completely confident
- troop: group, gang
- vocalize: use its voice, in Australia, spelled vocalise
- ultrasound: imaging technique useful to see an unborn baby
- insemination: putting sperm (male genetic material) into a female animal to help begin a pregnancy
- intriguing: gets people interested
- Why is it exciting when a western lowland gorilla is born?
- Where and how do golden lion tamarins live in the wild?
- How old is Mei Xiang?
- Describe a wombat joey when it is born.
- What is the wombat joey called and why?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
What fantastic news from various zoos around the world!
The birth of a baby is always exciting and baby animals are no exception. What makes this more exciting is that these animals have declining populations in the wild.
Write a card to one of the zoos, congratulating them on the birth of one of the above animals. Address the card to those responsible for their care. You may find their names in the articles. In your card explain why the birth of these animals is particularly special for their species. Make your card personal by including as many details about the animals as you can.
Decorate your card appropriately for the animal you have chosen.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking, The Arts – Visual Arts
Choose one of the animals mentioned in this article to create a BRAINSTORM about them.
Start by writing the name of the animal in the centre of your page with a circle around it. Draw lines from this circle and write information you know about this animal at the end. Some information about the animal is included in the article. For further information you may need to do some more research. Try to include …
- where they are from (country, region)
- type of animal (classification – insect, reptile, mammal, etc)
- natural habitat
- endangered status
- social groupings (do they live in family groups or in isolation)
Southern hairy-nosed wombat (might have the following information included)
– Native to Australia
– Born the size of jelly beans
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking
Scan through the article and see if you can locate three words that you consider to be basic, or low level. Words we use all the time and they can be replaced by more sophisticated words, words like good and said are examples of overused words.
Once you have found them, see if you can up-level them. Think of synonyms you could use instead of these basic words, but make sure they still fit into the context of the article.
Re-read the article with your new words.
Did it make it better?
HAVE YOUR SAY: Which baby animal would you like to care for?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.