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March 2021 In mid-February, a bonobo was born in Apenheul, and now gorilla Gyasi has given birth to a healthy child for the second time. Mother Gyasi and her baby are doing well. The baby's gender is not yet known. Apenheul is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and this is the 50th gorilla baby born in the beautiful nature park. It is also an extraordinary event because this is silverback Bao Bao's first offspring.
Silverback Bao Bao's first offspring
Apenheul is part of the European Endangered Species Program (EEP) for gorillas to preserve this endangered species in zoos. Today, the genes of many gorillas born in Apenheul have been spread worldwide. Father Bao Bao's genes were not represented in the breeding program until now because he lived without women for many years. Two years ago, the silverback came to Apenheul to breed. At the time, it was unclear how he would behave in a group. "We are extremely happy with the birth of a healthy gorilla baby. It was not certain whether Bao Bao would be the right leader for the group, and he had never mated before either. Step by step, the zookeepers helped him acclimatise, and the birth of a healthy baby is the crowning glory of our work. This gorilla baby is the first to carry half of Bao Bao's genes, and that is very important," says Raoul Michon, zookeeper at Apenheul.
Experienced mother and grandmother
It is important for a gorilla group that young are born. A birth promotes the group's wellbeing; the young add dynamism, and young gorilla females can learn vital parenting skills through observation. Gyasi is an experienced mother and recently became a grandmother. Her daughter Tayari, who moved to Taipei Zoo in November 2019, has also given birth. They are both doing well. Tayari's cub has been named Jabali.
The new gorilla baby at Apenheul has not yet been named. In the spring, when the gender is also known, we will launch a contest to find an African name. Anyone can participate in the naming contest. Apenheul's zookeepers will choose the winning name from all entries. The park will announce how and when the names can be submitted on its social media channels and the website apenheul.nl/gorillababy. Keep a close eye on those channels in the coming weeks.
October 2020 Gyasi is doing well, despite several pregnancy ailments at the beginning of the pregnancy. Daniëlle, a gorilla keeper and pregnant herself, picked up on one of those ailments immediately. “ I had very little appetite in the morning at the start of my pregnancy, and I recognised the same thing with Gyasi,” says Daniëlle. She ate almost nothing in the morning.” The zookeepers at Apenheul are not sure exactly how many weeks pregnant Gyasi is. Gorillas do not get ultrasounds, and their bellies do not grow much during pregnancy. Gorillas naturally have a rounded belly, because they have a longer intestinal system than humans. As a result, determining the date on which Gyasi will give birth is guesswork. “ I think she will give birth in late January or early February,” says Daniëlle. That would be nice, as I am due myself around then.”
In 2021, Apenheul will be organising various activities to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It is extraordinary that we can celebrate this special birth in such a festive year.
New birth is essential to a gorilla group. A birth promotes the wellbeing of the group; the young add dynamism, and young gorilla females can learn vital parenting skills through observation. Because Bao Bao lived alone for a long time, he had to get used to living with six females. Apenheul gave Bao Bao time to settle into his role as a stud male and silverback. It took some time for the first mating to take place. The gorilla females were very clear about what they wanted, but Bao Bao did not take the bait immediately. The gorilla keepers knew that this could take time, and they were right. Female gorilla Gyasi (18 years old) is pregnant. She previously brought a daughter, Tayari, into the world. Tayari was moved to Taipei Zoo in November 2019. Interestingly, Tayari is about to give birth to her first young.
Bao Bao lived alone for a long time, and his genes had not yet been used in the international breeding programme, so Apenheul is delighted that a gorilla baby is on the way!