CHRISTMAS has come early at Blackpool Zoo following the birth of a critically endangered gorilla.
Njema, 19, gave birth to a healthy baby western lowland gorilla in the early hours of November 8 following an uncomplicated labour.
And the baby, whose sex is yet to be determined, has been an instant hit with two-year-old gorilla pen mate Meisie, who is intrigued at the prospect of having a new friend.
First time mother Njema underwent revolutionary fertility testing earlier this year after keepers became concerned she had not conceived.
The pioneering testing programme involved mixing child friendly glitter with Njema’s favourite yogurts so staff could differentiate her faeces from that of the other gorillas in order to send it to specialist labs for testing.
But concern turned to delight in February when the results showed that not only was she cycling normally but she was pregnant.
Since the birth Meisie, who was the first gorilla ever born at Blackpool Zoo, has been fascinated and is overjoyed to have someone she will be able to play with.
Peter Dillingham, animal manager at Blackpool Zoo, told The Gazette: “We’re absolutely delighted to announce the birth of our second baby western lowland gorilla.
“After the birth of our first baby we were hopeful our resident silverback Bukavu would successfully mate with Njema, but over a year and a half later she still wasn’t pregnant.
“After consulting with the European Endangered Species Programme we decided to commence investigations and were thrilled to find out Njema was pregnant in February this year.
“We closed the Ape House to the public after the birth to give Njema time to adjust.
“We have now started to gradually open the house for public viewing but if at any stage Njema looks nervous or stressed, we will need to prevent access for a short time.
“The baby will spend the next few weeks clinging to Njema’s chest until it builds strength and co-ordination.
“We’re all looking forward to finding out if it is a boy or a girl and by the time Spring comes around it will be wonderful to see our two special babies playing together.”
Blackpool Zoo is home to five Western Lowland Gorillas. Bukavu the silverback is 15 and Miliki, 17 is the mother of Meisie, who will turn three in May. Njema is Miliki’s half-sister and is a year older at 19. Kena, the remaining female is 31 years old and the daughter of Snowflake, the world’s first and only ever albino western lowland gorilla.