Saturday, 14 May 2011

London Zoo's baby gorilla 'Tiny' killed in attack

Tiny the gorilla Tiny died after being injured by a new silverback male

A baby gorilla nicknamed "Tiny" by keepers at London Zoo has died after an attack by a new male silverback.

The seven-month-old western lowland gorilla was injured on Thursday when he and his mother Mjukuu were introduced to new male Kesho for the second time.

During a scuffle between the whole group the baby suffered a broken arm and suspected internal injuries.

The infant gorilla underwent a three-hour operation to pin his arm but vets were unable to revive him.

Zoological Society of London (ZSL) director David Field said everyone at the zoo was "completely heartbroken".

Kesho's arrival last year was recommended by experts to create a cohesive social group, after the death of the zoo's previous male gorilla.

In the wild male gorillas often attack the offspring of their rivals, so staff were cautious about introducing Kesho to the baby, who was the offspring of the former male.

Kesho had been gradually introduced to the two other female gorillas at the zoo but keepers waited many months for an introduction to the youngster and his mother.

Mr Field said Mjukuu had begun to interact confidently with Kesho and the The first introduction on Wednesday "went very well".

'Utterly devastated'

Kesho asserted his authority during a second attempt on Thursday, and during a scuffle between the whole group the baby's arm was seriously injured.

The gorillas were separated and the baby taken to the on-site vet hospital.

When he was brought off the anaesthetic, Tiny was unable to breathe by himself, and vets suspected he had also sustained internal injuries.

Despite repeated efforts he could not be revived, ZSL said.

Mr Field said: "We knew this was going to be an extremely difficult situation for the gorillas and their keepers and we've always been open about the challenges we would face introducing a new male in such difficult circumstances.

"Everyone here is utterly devastated. Although we had tried to be prepared for the worst, we are all completely heartbroken by this."

Keepers returned the baby's body to Mjukuu so she could come to terms with his death.

A post-mortem examination will be carried out and gorilla introductions between the adults will continue in order to create a stable, secure group, ZSL said.

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