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Gorilla Born at Barcelona Zoo to Snowflake's Offspring

Updated on April 9, 2010


Snowflake in Barcelona Zoo
Snowflake in Barcelona Zoo


Most people have heard of Snowflake, 'Copito de Nieve' in Spanish, the famous white Gorilla of Barcelona zoo, who passed away in 2003, after battling skin cancer since 2001.

Snowflake had been amongst the best known animals at Barcelona Zoo for 37 years.

Mother & Baby

Gorilla Born at Barcelona Zoo

Snowflake's latest 'grandchild', born this past week, has made history at the zoo; as the first to be born within the group, and kept together with its mother as part of the group.

Snowflake's daughter Machinda, one of his 21 offspring, gave birth on 28 February after 260 days gestation. The little one is so protected by the mother and the group, that zookeepers still don't know which sex it is, something which could take months to reveal, until it is released from the arms of its mother.

Lluis Colom, head keeper at the zoo, said "This birth, in these circumstances, is only possible thanks to many years of work." Until now, to guarantee the survival of newborns, the mothers were separated and slept alone.

"Breastfeeding does not come naturally, it has to be learned". Maria Teresa Abelló, the keeper in charge of these primates, said "The females of the zoo, as they were born in captivity, didn't know how to nurse, and if we didn't separate them, the infants could die"
"This will be the first generation of primates nurtured by the mother under the vigilance of the father, in an atmosphere as close as possible to that which they would live in liberty"

The 31-year-old Machinda is mother to six gorillas, three of which live at the zoo. Maria said "it has also been very interesting to watch the behaviour of Ngoro, the oldest brother, who has behaved like the 'Macho' of the group, protecting his mother"

The head keeper made it clear that gorillas are a species in grave danger of extinction, (in five years they could disappear) and underlined the importance of allowing their reproduction in the most natural way possible.

Children have been invited to choose the name for the newborn. The selected names are in Fang, the language of Equatorial Guinea, the country Snowflake came from.
The four candidates as names are:
Babule, meaning tender.
Engom, --March.
Kikile, --Soon
Nvom, --Luck

Zookeepers have placed an urn right in front of the cage, where visitors to the zoo can choose which of the four options they think should be given to the little primate. The most voted name will be used to baptise the little one, who's face so far has been very difficult to see, as his mother does not loosen her grip, even for a second.

So far none off snowflakes offspring, nor their offspring, have been born albino.

This latest addition to the family will be closely watched by keepers and news reporters alike, due to the history making circumstances of its birth.

Sources: El Periodico newspaper and Barcelona Zoo.


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