Taronga Zoo's wonderful Western Lowland Gorilla group welcomed a brand new addition to their family. The tiny infant male was born to proud mother Frala.
Frala and little boy are doing very well under the watchful eye of magnificent silverback, Kibabu. The youngster joins older brother Fataki and older sisters Mbeli and Kimya, bringing the number of Kibabu's family up to eight.
Primate Unit Supervisor, Louise Grossfeldt, says: "We are all extremely pleased with the safe arrival of this very special little baby. Because we work so closely with our Gorillas we are able to predict quite accurately a due date, so we knew this baby was coming along any day now. We are always very excited around the time a baby gorilla is due, but also a little anxious because we hope for it to all go well. For it to be so successful is just wonderful".
"Frala has just been through an eight and a half month pregnancy, so I'm sure she is just as relieved as we are for her little one to finally be here. So far all the signs are very positive. Frala is being very attentive and protective and the baby looks strong and healthy. We will be monitoring them very closely over the next few days to make sure they continue to progress well".
Primate keepers discovered Frala with her brand new baby early on Saturday afternoon. The rest of the gorilla family were relaxed and quiet and older brother, four year old Fataki sat close by watching his new little brother with curious wide eyes. The new arrival will cling tightly to mum's belly until he develops the strength and coordination to hang onto Frala's hair at about two months. He will be suckled for about a year and stay close to Frala until he is three to four years old.
The new arrival, who is yet to be named is the first baby gorilla born at Taronga since little Kimya in January 2005 and the 4th successfukl gorilla birth at Taronga Zoo since the Hungry Jacks Gorilla Forest opened in 1997.
Ms. Grossfledt says: "The baby boy is Frala's sixth offspring so she has plenty of mothering experience, despite being the group's youngest adult female. She is a very unique mother, showing slightly different maternal styles to our two other gorilla mothers, Mouila and Kriba. We are very familiar with Frala's approach though, and know what is normal for her. Just like humans, gorillas are all very individual".
"Our Silverback, Kibabu is an outstanding leader and protector of his family. He has always been a highly successful father and silverback, having now sired 13 offspring. We feel a great sense of pride in Kibabu and the way he manages his family, particularly at a significant time like this when there is a big change and both Frala and her new baby need some extra attention".
This baby is an extremely valuable addition to world breeding programs for gorillas, helping insure against rapidly declining numbers of gorillas in Africa. Western Lowland Gorillas are endangered. The long-term survival of this species is under serious threat due to the ever-growing bushmeat trade, poaching and forest clearing.
Lucky visitors are beginning to catch glimpses of the new arrival and his family as the infant spends longer periods on display. The best viewing times are at the Gorillas feeding session during the day - 9.00am, 11.00am and 2.00pm.
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THE KIBABU FAMILY
There are eight gorillas in the Gorilla Forest - one silverback, three adult females, two juveniles - one male and one female, a two infants one female and one male .
Born May 1977
The ‘Ki' in Kibabu's name was also part of his parents' names and was used as a family identifier. He is the dominant male and silverback, is a close-to-perfect leader, well respected by the other gorillas in his group and at 210 kilograms, a magnificent gorilla. Kibabu is the father of the four young gorillas in the group. He is the obvious leader, protective and always alert, should any disagreement arise within his family. He can often been seen sitting towards the back of the exhibit, watching his family. Despite this, Kibabu still displays characteristic features of juvenile behaviour occasionally. He can sometimes be seen playing wrestling games with the younger gorillas - but once he realises the keepers are watching him he stops and becomes very serious again! Kibabu doesn't take advantage of his position as a leader, except during feeding time. Kibabu loves his food! He'll become dominant and a little assertive but never aggressive.
Born November 1972
Mouila, meaning ‘African fantasy', is the maternal one, always busy cuddling her children and spoiling them by letting them have their way. She is the mother of Kriba and Mbeli. Mouila is calm, wise and a very experienced gorilla. As her former keeper said, "She makes you think that she is really able to put things into perspective." She joined Kibabu's group in 1988, and made the significant move with a special dignity and absolute minimum of concern, enabling a smooth and very short introduction. Mouila has a friendly and even-tempered nature with other gorillas in the group and also with her keepers. She respects Kibabu but is not fearful of him.
Born August 1979
Kriba was named after Kris Baris, a former ape keeper at Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands. Kriba lacks the self-assuredness of her mother Mouila, sometimes becoming restless for only minor reasons. As the mother of Kimya, she is always careful and concerned for her well-being. No doubt she has learned these skills from her mother. Kriba will often assume the role of Kibabu's second in charge. In times of potential threat to the group Kriba, like Kibabu, will patrol the exhibit and monitor closely what is going on in the outside world.
Born June 1981
Frala is named after Frank Lambach from the Netherlands, who was a member of the council in the town where Apenheul, the primate park she came from is situated. Frala is the youngest adult female in the group and the mother of Fataki and now a new baby boy. Frala is a relatively nervous and unpredictable member of the Kibabu family, sometimes being a little off-hand and abrupt with the other group members. Her brusque behaviour is no doubt due to the fact that Mouila, Kriba and their children form the central clique in Kibabu's group. This sometimes leaves Frala a bit of a social outsider.
Born 15 February 2003.
Named for Mbeli Bay (pronounced Mmm-bay-lee bye) a paradise-like clearing in the dense forests of West Africa where the only continuous study of Western Lowland Gorillas takes place. Mbeli is a very precocious little Gorilla, very confident and always interested in what her keepers are up to. She proved to be quite tolerant when infant Kimya used to jump on her back. Zoo staff will watch with interest as little Mbeli continues to develop her own personality.
Born 24 May 2003
Fataki, whose name means ‘fireworks', is a typical little boy, complete with toddler tantrums and bouts of showing off. He is quite cheeky and loves running out to steal food from the magnificent silverback, Kibabu. He frequently runs around beating his chest and making a spectacle of himself like the average toddler!
Born 7 January 2005
Kimya's name is Swahili for ‘quiet one'. These days however, Taronga Zoo's youngest female gorilla, while still being very much a little girl, is definitely starting to become more confident and has been seen to jump on Mbeli's back for a ride around! Her keepers think she is one of the prettiest Gorillas they have ever seen. Despite still being breastfed by mother Kriba, her favourite treats are mung beans.
8. The new arrival
Born 8 December 2007
The newest addition to Kibabu's family, a little boy is Frala's sixth offspring. The yet to be named male is doing well and getting a lot of attention from the rest of the group, particularly the juveniles, including his/her big brother Fataki. Only very young at this stage he will be under the constant and curious observation of keepers as they ensure he is healthy and happy. Keepers say it will be interesting to see his personality develop over the next year or two and wonder if he'll become as precocious as his older brother.