The year 2022 ended with sad news from Hellabrunn Zoo. On New Year's Eve morning, the keepers were surprised to discover a newborn infant in the gorilla enclosure of the Jungle Pavilion. They then noticed the female offspring had been rejected by her mother and the other members of the group. Unfortunately, the infant had to be euthanized due to its deteriorating health.
In the early morning of New Year's Eve, the keepers discovered a newborn gorilla infant when they arrived for work at the Jungle Pavilion. They also noticed that the infant was being ignored and received no attention from any of the five adults who would have been present at the birth. As a result, the female infant born during the night suffered from severe hypothermia. The keepers were quickly able to identify the mother as 35-year-old Neema and, after treatment by the vets, made an attempt to reunite her with her newborn. Sadly, Neema continued to show no interest in her baby and did not approach the little one. The rejection by the mother may be due to her infant’s weak condition.
After convening a meeting to discuss the infant’s deteriorating health, a panel of experts comprising primate keepers, management, veterinarians and curators from Hellabrunn Zoo as well as representatives from the regional veterinary authority and the EAZA Ex-situ Programme for gorillas, a heartbreaking decision was unanimously made to euthanize the newborn.
"No signs of pregnancy had been noticed with Neema, but this is not uncommon for gorillas since they always have a large stomach due to their plant-based diet," says Christine Gohl, head veterinarian at Hellabrunn Zoo. “The complete lack of interest by the entire gorilla group at Hellabrunn in the newborn was striking.”
"It is known that in the wild the animals can recognise very early on whether their offspring is healthy and whether rearing has a chance of success. This behaviour, which appears harsh from a human point of view, saves the mother important energy resources, which would otherwise be expended if the rearing were unsuccessful," adds Carsten Zehrer, head of the zoology department.
Pathological examinations conducted confirm the infant suffered from serious illnesses. The newborn had a bleeding in the head and an advanced navel infection, which support the decision made in the interest of animal welfare.