Mum’s the word!

Posted on March 31, 2011


Mother, Lena, with her newborn (western lowland gorilla) at Dublin Zoo

I’m at that age now where most of my friends are either married off with children or are brooding. I’ve been warned with many a wagging finger and raised eyebrow by my yummy-mummy mates, that unless I start procreating now or at least consider freezing my eggs, (I don’t even freeze leftover food!!) I’m likely to miss out on the all-singing-all-dancing-jamboree of family life.

It’s something that I’m aware of, but not something I’m in a panic-stricken state about, like some 30-something women. I am however, fully aware that the earth’s population is growing faster than we can say ‘maternity-leave’ and that the planet simply does not have enough natural resources to sustain the rapidly expanding human race. Well that’s the excuse I give my parents when they mention the word grandchildren.

My dear Irish friends Mr D (who I blame for my awful hangover last week) and his Mrs, Bodhrán-Queen, are popping over to London this weekend from Ireland. BQ is an avid reader of my blog and emailed me straight away about a Dublin mum who’s making all the headlines.

She’s certainly doing her fair share and mine, for that matter, for motherhood. And unlike me, there’s a reason everyone is so happy-clappy about the birth of yet another baby……her fifth in fact!

Lena is a western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at Dublin Zoo. At the ripe-ole-age  of 27 she’s just given birth again. Her species is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. But the number of western lowland gorillas are far greater than their relatives the mountain gorillas, whose population is believed to be around 700-800 in the wild.

This western lowland gorilla at Dublin Zoo will be one week old on Sunday

Conservationists predict that the numbers of western lowland gorillas living in Cameroon; Central African Republic (CAR) ; Congo; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo; will fall by over 80 per cent up until 2046. It’s as a result of commercial hunting (such as poaching or the bushmeat trade) and the risk of catching the highly contagious and fatal haemorrhagic-virus, Ebola – these are believed to be the two main threats facing their survival. If American scientist Dr Peter Walsh is successful in his latest vaccination trials in the wild next month, Ebola may be one less thing for the apes to worry about (see my post this month). But there’s still a long way to go.

Lena, unsurprisingly is a very protective mother. So much so, the keepers at Dublin Zoo haven’t been able to work out whether her baby is a boy or girl. They have said however that the baby is healthy and the father is Harry, the dominant silverback of the group.

The latest edition to the western lowland gorilla group at Dublin Zoo

The baby gorilla, who is yet to be named, will join two brothers Alfie (born 2003) and Evindi (born 2006) and Mayani, a female gorilla who moved to Dublin Zoo from Stuttgart Zoo in 2005.