Researchers have captured rare video of a newborn western lowland gorilla in the wild.
The infant, who was estimated to be only a few hours old when scientists first saw it on Feb. 17, was born in the rainforests of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, according to a press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The baby is the offspring of a female gorilla named Mekome and a male silverback named Kingo, who has been studied by the WCS Congo researchers of the Mondika Gorilla Project for about two decades.
“Mekome, one of the females in the group, came climbing down some lianas from the tree canopy,” the WCS Congo team wrote in a blogpost. “As she joined a five-year-old infant in the group on the forest floor, the research team heard a soft whining noise coming from Mekome’s belly. When they looked more closely, they could see that Mekome was carrying a new-born baby; as she passed by very close to the team, maybe to give the team a first introduction to her baby, they could see that the baby was no more than a few hours old.”
The critically endangered western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) live in the thick jungles of Central and West Africa. Much like human pregnancy, female gorillas’ pregnancies last nearly nine months, and their babies, like human newborns, are tiny and completely dependent on their mothers.
Young gorillas face many threats while growing up, including attacks by other animals, disease and poaching, and few survive to adulthood. Mekome’s newest baby is her fifth offspring. Only one of her previous babies, named Ekendi, is still alive, and has been following Mekome very closely since the infant arrived, the WCS team said.
“We’re very excited to be witness to the emergence of the next generation of Kingo’s growing clan,” Mark Gately, director of WCS’s Republic of Congo program, said in a statement. “A baby gorilla represents hope for the entire species.”
Mekome with her newborn gorilla. Photo courtesy of WCS Congo.