Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury, is celebrating the birth of a beautiful western lowland gorilla. The latest arrival takes the total number of births at the popular breeding sanctuary to a record 139, firmly cementing the park’s reputation as the most successful breeders of this critically endangered species in the world.
The baby, born on Saturday 12th May 2018 is mother, Dihi’s fifth offspring, however, for proud father, Ebeki, this is his first and he is reported to be taking to his new fatherly role very well.
Lorna Wanless, Head of Gorilla Section at Howletts said: ‘We’re absolutely thrilled! Dihi is a lovely gorilla and an experienced mother. Both Dihi and her baby are doing very well. Although silverbacks tend not to get physically involved in raising their young, it’s great to see Ebeki taking an interest in the little one from a distance and being naturally protective of both mum and baby.’
The popular wild animal park is part of the world leading conservation charity, The Aspinall Foundation. The Foundation is committed to returning animals born at its Kent based wild animal parks – Howletts and Port Lympne Reserve, to protected areas of their natural habitat as part of their vital conservation efforts.
Adrian Harland, Animal Director added: ‘Western lowland gorillas are one of the species that we are best known for and we are justly proud of our breeding programme. As well as caring for gorillas at our parks we also work closely with The Aspinall Foundation to protect them in the wild, and where possible, reintroduce gorillas born at the parks back into their natural environment.’
The conservation charity, headed by dedicated conservationist Damian Aspinall has returned over 80 western lowland gorillas to their forests of Congo and Gabon and is responsible for not only rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned gorillas in Africa but also protecting over 1M acres of wilderness, where they have successfully habituated gorillas born at the wild animal parks in Kent.
Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation said: ‘Habituating captive born animals back into the wild is vitally important, and it’s what we at The Aspinall Foundation are dedicated to achieving. It’s not just what we are doing with gorillas but because we protect the gorillas, we protect the whole forest and by protecting the whole forest, we protect the whole ecosystem. So, doing one incredibly difficult thing – introducing gorillas back into the wild, has a knock-on effect, so it’s vitally important.’
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild. Estimates range from 50,000 to 150,000 individuals remaining; however, the true figure is very difficult to gauge. It is estimated that if the number of western lowland gorilla continues to decline at the present rate the species may be extinct by 2020.
For further information about Howletts Wild Animal Park, including opening times, special events and entry prices please visit www.aspinallfoundation.org/howletts