Baby gorilla born at Bristol Zoo is being hand-reared by humans for the next four months after his nine-year-old mother Kala struggled to look after him

  • Baby gorilla was born August 19 to nine-year-old mother Kala with his father, Jock, nearby 
  • Kala was struggling to care for the dependant infant and was not producing enough milk for him to thrive 
  • Zookeepers decided to raise the baby by hand for four  months before reintroducing him to his family group 

A baby gorilla born in August at Bristol Zoo is being reared by a team of dedicated humans after his mother was unable to care for him. 

The as-yet-unnamed ape will be bottle-fed and tended for round the clock by zookeepers and reintroduced to the wider group in about four months’ time. 

Mother Kala is nine years old was struggling to look after the little male baby and provide enough milk for him. 

Both baby and mother are said to be doing well despite now being separated, the zoo says. 

A baby gorilla (pictured) born in August at Bristol Zoo is being reared by a team of dedicated humans after his mother was unable to look after him


The as-yet-unnamed ape will be bottle-fed and tended for round the clock by zookeepers and reintroduced to the wider group in about four months’ time

Mother Kala is nine years old was struggling to look after the little male baby and was not providing enough milk for him. Both baby and mother are said to be doing well despite now being separated

Lynsey Bugg, mammals curator at Bristol Zoo Gardens, said: ‘Hand-rearing any animal is not a decision we take lightly as our preference is always for an animal to be reared naturally by its own mother.

‘Sadly this doesn’t always happen and in this instance we decided that it was in the baby gorilla’s best interests for us to hand rear him to ensure he had the best chance of survival.’

Lynsey said keepers would do their best to treat him like a gorilla mum would, expecting him to hold on tight, and making gorilla vocalisations so his reintroduction into the group is as easy as possible.

She added: ‘It’s really important for him that he remains a familiar member of the group, as well as being used to all the sounds, sights and smells of the gorillas.’

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the gorilla house is open to visitors but the baby is not visible to the public at this formative stage of its life.  

Members of the public are being asked to help name the gorilla, with a public vote on the zoo’s Facebook page. 

The four choices are Motuku, Hasani, Luango and Kidosi. 

Mother Kala, who came to Bristol from Germany in 2018, gave birth naturally with the baby’s father, Jock, nearby on August 19. 

Keepers arrived in the morning to find the little gorilla nestling in his mother’s arms.

In September last year, Kala lost her first infant after undergoing an emergency cesarean section and keepers are now keen to ensure the latest baby has the best chance of survival. 

Ms Bugg said at the time: ‘We knew we were having a baby gorilla due and we’ve been on baby watch for a little while.

‘On Tuesday Kala looked nice and comfortable and not causing us any concerns or worries.

‘I came in to find a brand new baby in the house. It was lovely.

‘Last year she did have a pregnancy and birth but it didn’t go as planned and unfortunately the baby didn’t survive.

‘We were a bit on tenterhooks this time round and it is so lovely that she was able to give birth naturally. and baby and mum are really well.

‘She’s a very attentive mother and very nurturing and you see lots of suckling from the baby, and the baby looks really strong and a good size.’  

The new gorilla joins a troop of six gorillas at the zoo, which are part of a breeding programme to help safeguard the future of western lowland gorillas.

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered primates from Cameroon, in the west Central Africa region.

Many wild gorillas are shot by hunters for the bush meat trade which thrives in towns and cities. 

Bristol Zoo Gardens is actively involved in ensuring there is a strong population in human care.

Lowland gorillas, which can weigh up to 400lb as adults and stand 6ft tall, are usually not aggressive – unless disturbed.

Lynsey Bugg, the zoo’s curator of mammals, said in August: ‘We knew we were having a baby gorilla due and we’ve been on baby watch for a little while. I came in yesterday morning to find a brand new baby in the house. It was lovely’

One of Bristol Zoological Society’s flagship conservation projects focuses on western lowland gorillas in Monte Alén National Park, Equatorial Guinea – an area highlighted by the IUCN as critically important for the conservation of this species. For more than 20 years The Society has also supported a sanctuary in Cameroon which helps look after orphaned gorillas and chimpanzees

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