Mourned after being rejected: baby gorilla at heart of zoo row

A mother gorilla clutches the lifeless body of her three-month-old child in an extraordinary, almost human display of emotion.

The moving photograph of 11-year-old Gana carrying her infant's corpse and trying desperately to come to terms with his death captivated Germany, when the images were released yesterday. Staff at the zoo in Münster discovered the baby gorilla, named Claudio, early on Saturday evening. He was lying dead on the floor of the cage he shared with his mother.

Pictures of Gana carrying Claudio on her back and holding him up in her hands were splashed across newspapers and broadcast on television bulletins.

Jörg Adler, 61, the director of the zoo, said: "On Wednesday last week, keepers noticed that Claudio was very lethargic. He hardly had anything to drink on Friday and simply grew weaker and weaker. He died on Saturday." Münster zookeepers said Claudio's death was almost certainly the result of Gana neglecting and mistreating the infant. But they said they would not be able to confirm the cause until Gana relinquished Claudio's body and allowed a post-mortem examination to be carried out on it.

It emerged yesterday that Gana had a history of rejecting and mistreating her offspring. Last year, she gave birth to her first baby, a female named Mary Zwo. Gana rejected Mary Zwo for six weeks. Staff at the zoo finally intervened and rescued the baby, which was taken to a veterinary hospital with dehydration and exposure. Mary Zwo was never returned to her mother and has lived at a zoo in Stuttgart with four other gorillas ever since.

This time, Münster Zoo rejected the idea of stepping in to save Claudio. "There was no point in intervening again," said Mr Adler. "We cannot keep on taking away children from a mother."

Zoo staff said that at first they had hoped that Gana would treat Claudio better that Mary Zwo. The baby had developed normally until a few weeks ago and had played actively with a nine-month-old gorilla in the enclave.

They said Claudio suddenly became noticeably frail last week. Keepers attempted to revive him with baby food contained in a child's plastic beaker they poked through the bars of his cage.

On Friday, he was reportedly still taking his mother's milk. "After that he went rapidly downhill," said one of his keepers.

In the wild, gorillas have been known to carry around the corpses of their offspring for days after they have died.

Münster Zoo's decision not to intervene to save the Claudio was expected to revive a controversy in Germany over the way that zoos treat animals in captivity. Berlin Zoo's decision more than 18 months ago to intervene to save the life of the now internationally renowned polar bear cub, Knut, after he was rejected by his mother at birth sparked a major debate. Several leading polar bear experts claimed that it was unnatural for the zoo to step in and rescue the bear.

They said human intervention would result in Knut never being able find a mate and it would leave him totally dependent on humans. Similar arguments were raised earlier this year after the birth and rescue of another polar bear cub rejected by it mother at Nuremberg Zoo.

Although Knut has subsequently won the hearts of millions worldwide and even become the subject of a Hollywood film, some zoologists contend that the bear has developed psychopathic tendencies.

As predicted, Berlin Zoo is currently experiencing problems in finding Knut a potential mate.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Telesales & Marketing Opportunities

£10400 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests