Hand-reared baby gorilla now has surrogate mother

Western lowland gorilla Hasani with his surrogate mother Kera
Western lowland gorilla Hasani with his surrogate mother Kera (PA Media)
14:16pm, Thu 20 May 2021
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An infant gorilla that has been hand-reared at a UK zoo now has a surrogate mother.

Western lowland gorilla Hasani, who was born in August last year at Bristol Zoo Gardens, was cared for by keepers after his birth mother, Kala, struggled to look after him.

It meant a six-strong team taking it in turns to be with him around the clock for seven months during which he needed feeding up to eight times a day.

Western lowland gorilla Hasani is now being cared for by a surrogate at Bristol Zoo Gardens. (Jordan Jones/Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA) (PA Media)

Two months ago, keepers reintroduced him to his mother hoping that she would be able to care for him.

Curator of mammals Lynsey Bugg said: “We really wanted to get them back together and give Kala another chance to look after him.

“Once Hasani was sufficiently mobile and physically ready for it, we felt the time was right to try them together again.

“But despite Kala being very keen to begin with, over time she continued to show the worrying signs of not being able to cope.

“We really tried everything we could every day over several weeks but in the end we had to accept that it wasn’t working.”

After a week’s break, keepers turned to 16-year-old Kera to see if she could take on the role of surrogate mother.

Surrogate mother Kera is now looking after baby Western lowland gorilla Hasani (Jordan Jones/Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA) (PA Media)

Ms Bugg said the introductions began with Hasani and Kera limited to touching through an open partition that Hasani only was able to move through.

Keepers stayed close by and on hand but were able to progress to giving them full access to each other after a few days.

Eventually they left the two of them together and watched on TV monitors from a different part of the gorilla house, ready to step in if things did not go well.

It is the first time Kera has looked after an infant.

She had a daughter, Afia, five years ago by caesarean section because she had potentially life-threatening pre-eclampsia.

But she was so ill that another gorilla, Romina, became a surrogate mother to Afia.

“Although Kera had no rearing experience, she is very intelligent and we have been able to nurture her behaviour,” Ms Bugg added.

“She has seen several other females rear their youngsters and so had a good foundation on which to build on.

“All the way through hand-rearing, Kera was keen to spend time with Hasani and the two always seemed to get on very well.”

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