Baby gorilla joy for London Zoo

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London Zoo is celebrating the first birth of a baby gorilla for 20 years -- but he will never know his father.

He may not have a name yet but the newborn western lowland male was already the centre of attention in the gorilla enclosure on Thursday after his 12-year-old mother Mjukuu gave birth two days earlier.

The baby's father, Yeboah, died in March after being introduced to the zoo last November as a mate to three female gorillas, Mjukuu, Zaire and Effie.

Staff at the zoo now face the potentially difficult task of introducing the new male to his stepfather, the hulking head of the family, Kesho.

Tragedy has stalked the zoo's gorillas -- Yeboah was the second male to die there after Bobby, a 25-year-old silverback, passed away in December 2008.

The zoo said: "Introducing the baby to Kesho is not without its risks, however staff are making every effort to assist a smooth introduction and hopefully ensure the gorillas form a cohesive family group."

Visitors to the Gorilla Kingdom attraction were being warned they may have to wait to see the young gorilla because of the delicate introduction process.

The baby was born after a labour described as "straightforward".

He may be cuddly now, but he is expected to grow to become a strapping 25-stone (160-kilogramme) adult.

Zoological director David Field said: "Mother and baby are both doing brilliantly, although it's still early days.

"'Aunties' Zaire and Effie were at the birth and have remained with Mjukuu throughout."

© 2010 AFP

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