Even gorillas have a “birth” column because when a baby is born, its BIG news amongst gorilla enthusiasts.
News in from the forest is that the Mubare Group, the oldest gorilla group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (they were habituated in 1993 and opened to visitors in 1994) has a new addition. Kashundwe, the only female left in the group of 4, has a new baby boy. He’s only a few days old now, but guides have established his sex – he is a male.
Female gorillas reach sexual maturity at around eight years of age. Often the silverback in their group is their dad so to avoid inbreeding, females will then leave the group they were born into. They can transfer to another established group or link up with a strapping lone silverback who is setting up his harem. (pretty much like Mishaya of the Nshongi gorilla group)
Gorilla reproduction is slow. The gap between infants is four years and infant mortality is high. In her lifetime a mom will raise between two to six offspring remaining fertile till the end of her life.
Infants are generally born at night and after a gestation period of 8 months and for the first three months infants are totally dependent on their moms for just about everything.
At three months, they start to walk and climb on and around their mother. Exploring the environment takes on a whole new meaning. During the first six months baby gorillas develop about twice as fast as humans. Weaning takes place at 3 and as they grow, play takes on increasing importance. Over the next few years, social play tends to reflect the roles that each will assume as an adult.
At this stage, it is the juveniles who express particular interest in their new siblings; however it is rare for infants to stray very far from their mother’s sides.
And because the silverback is lord of his group and head of his family it is his chief role to protect his family from danger. He decides when, where and how fast they move camp, pacing the day’s travel to accommodate the sick or injured. Silverbacks are especially gentle towards their infants.
And if you have had the privilege to have spent an hour amongst these magnificent creatures, nothing is more beautiful than to see a small infant, for they are one of only 740 plus left in the world today.
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Submited at Friday, July 23rd, 2010 at 5:00 pm on Africa by dave
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