Gorilla moved to Belfast Zoo from Bristol in breeding programme

Keepers say could take a year for her to settle into her new home

Gorilla moved to Belfast from Bristol zoo in attempt to get him to mate

A western lowland gorilla has arrived in Belfast, after being moved from Bristol as part of a global breeding programme.

Zoo keepers at Belfast Zoo have said it could take up to a year for Namoki, the new gorilla, to settle into her new home.

Julie Mansell, curator at Belfast Zoo, said: "Today's move went extremely smoothly and Namoki arrived with us early this morning. Words: PA

"She currently has access to her own area in the gorilla house to allow her to settle in and get used to her surroundings."

Namoki was born at Bristol Zoo Gardens nine years ago.

Although her departure was celebrated with a party thrown by other gorillas in her troop, Namoki's arrival in Belfast has been a more sedate affair.

Bristol Zoo Waves Goodbye to Namoki the Gorilla

Ms Mansell added: "After gauging the response of the other gorillas, we have already started to gradually introduce Namoki to each individual. It will be important for Namoki to form relationships with all of the gorillas as they each have very different personalities.

"It is an exciting time in the gorilla house but we are also aware that it may take time for the group to bond. Kwanza arrived in 2011 from La Valle De Singes, in France, and it took her almost a year to completely settle in.

"We will be making all efforts to make Namoki feel as comfortable as possible in the coming weeks."

Namoki was born at Bristol Zoo in 2005 and is the daughter of Romina and 32-stone silverback Jock.

She is now mature enough to have babies of her own and was taken to Belfast to be introduced to another family.

It is hoped she will mate with silverback Gugas, who was orphaned in the wild, then acquired by a Portuguese circus and dumped at the gates of Lisbon Zoo after he became ill.

Gugas has been in Belfast since 1998.

Zoo manager Mark Challis said he hoped Namoki's arrival would herald the start of an exciting new chapter.

He said: "Because he was born in the wild, Gugas is genetically very important to the European breeding programme as he is not represented in the zoo population.

"For this reason, we tested Gugas's fertility and the results were not promising. We even suspected that he may never father any young. However, you can imagine our delight when he proved us wrong with the arrival of Baako and Kibibi in 2013 and 2014.

"With Namoki's arrival we are looking forward to hearing the sound of the pitter patter of even more little gorilla feet."

The move has been the culmination of months of work between Belfast and Bristol zoos.

Namoki was also trained to enter a crate to avoid the need for anaesthesia and was accompanied throughout her journey by Lynsey Bugg, assistant curator of mammals at Bristol, who has known her since she was born.

There are as few as 90,000 to 110,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild, with many killed for the "bush meat" trade.

Over the past 20 to 25 years, the number of gorillas has decreased by more than 60 per cent.

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