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Mouila a Western Lowland gorilla at Howletts celebrates turning 50
Mouila, a female Western lowland gorilla at Howletts Wild Animal Park, Kent, has turned 50 this month, making her the oldest Western lowland gorilla in the UK and one of the oldest of her kind worldwide.
To celebrate the event keepers made Mouila and her group special birthday presents. They wrapped boxes in gorilla-friendly birthday paper and filled them with straw and special treats for the gorillas to find.
Howletts and Port Lympne house the largest group of Western lowland gorillas in human care. Mouila has successfully reared 8 offspring and is now a grandmother. Three of her sons are in the Bachelor group at Port Lympne, one son, Oumbi, has gone on to be the breeding male at Twycross Zoo and some of her daughters have travelled to breeding programmes overseas.
Keepers give Mouila and the other gorillas a very varied seasonal diet to keep them in top condition. Giving the gorillas food in the gift boxes was not only a good way to celebrate Mouila’s special day but is one of the many ways Howletts encourages problem solving and other natural behaviours to enrich the lives of the animals in their care. The other gorillas in Mouila’s group all got involved with the presents including nine year old female Imbi (pictured).
Promotions Officer, Charlotte Jones, who watched the event with other staff members and public, commented:
‘The gorillas were incredibly excited when we arrived at the enclosure with the piles of boxes and were making a lovely deep ‘growling’ sound that they do when they are happy. They definitely knew they were in for a treat and watched carefully as keepers Tom and Lorna placed the boxes around their outside enclosure. As soon as the doors were open the gorillas ran up to the boxes and some of the younger gorillas grabbed two or three at a time! They made very short work of pulling them open and finding the treats inside. They were then kept occupied for the afternoon sorting through the straw to look for any treats they had missed and playing with the remains of the boxes. Despite being the dominant female and having plenty of opportunities to get a box for herself, Mouila took a rather relaxed approach to her birthday and let the other six gorillas in her group enjoy the party while she relaxed with a handful of beans and herbs.’
Head gorilla keeper Lorna Wanless commented:
‘Mouila was born in 1960 and in “human years” would be around 100 years old making this birthday a real milestone for her. I have worked with Mouilla for 11 years: She is the head female in the group and is certainly a strong character. She is a pleasure to work with and has had a lot of babies which is a big help towards conserving this critically endangered species’
Pictures from Dave Rolfe