Family introductions have begun for Bristol Zoo’s eight-month-old Western lowland gorilla, Afia.
The infant, who has been raised behind-the-scenes since birth, took the huge step in meeting the Zoo’s 36-year-old female, Romina, while her keepers watched on.
Watch the moving moment right here :-
Since day one of Afia’s hand rearing, we have been planning on introducing Afia into the group within her first year to avoid imprinting and a lack of knowledge of gorilla-specific behaviour later in life.
Initial introductions began last week with the pair being separated by mesh, leading to Romina’s den being opened just enough for Afia to get through while staff monitored closely.
Over the past few months, keepers separated Romina in an off-show den for increasing periods of time each day so both Romina and the group could get used to being apart, ready for this process to begin.
During this time keepers trained Romina to bring a cuddly toy gorilla to the mesh for feeding as well as to put the fake baby in a box and walk away, if keepers needed to intervene.
All training was successful and keepers were confident that Romina, who had shown huge maternal instincts towards Afia since birth, was ready to meet little Afia.
Afia was born by emergency C-section on 12 February this year. Her birth mother, Kera, suffered complications following the birth and was not well enough to care for Afia.
Because of this, zoo staff made the decision to hand-rear her behind-the-scenes. This involved feeding throughout the day and night, taking it in turns to take her home overnight and encouraging and teaching natural gorilla behaviours.
Video cameras have been set up inside dens to allow staff to monitor relationships and skilled keepers and vets are on hand should there be the need to intervene.