Just last month, staff of the WWF-funded Dzanga-Sangha Primate Habituation Programme witnessed the birth of a new infant into the Makumba group of western lowland gorillas, which lives in the Central Africa Republic's Dzanga-Ndoki National Park. The newborn was named Mowane - meaning "gift of God" in the local Bantu language.
Malui gave birth to Mowane in a tree nest as Makumba - her father - fed nearby. Malui was then observed biting Mowane's umbilical cord free, after which she climbed down and made three more nests on the ground. At this point her other offspring came and watched Malui groom their new sister. Like other mother-offspring pairs, Mowane has inherited her mother's unique nose pattern - v-shaped nostrils with distinct line-markings above.
The mother and infant are doing well and staying close to Makumba, who is taking his protective role seriously - a week after the birth he was observed leading his group away from the threat of a solitary male. Mowane is getting stronger by the day and has graduated from being carried on Malui's belly to being on her mother's back, and more recently on her arm.
Makumba's group is one of four in varying stages of habituation, along with a group of agile mangabey monkeys. Established in 1997 and funded by WWF, the Dzanga-Sangha Primate Habituation Programme (PHP) works to gradually acclimate western lowland gorillas to human contact for tourism and research. Through habituation, the program can help increase the economic values of parks in the Dzanga-Sangha region, generate ecotourism income for local communities, and increase support for gorilla conservation. The PHP is part of a larger Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas Ecotourism Programme, managed in partnership with the government of the Central African Republic, WWF and German nongovernmental organizations.
WWF's support of PHP is part of our work in the Congo Basin region, whose dense forests extend almost 500 million acres and span the boundaries of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo. WWF has worked for more than 30 years to protect the Congo Basin and continues to be active in the field, engaging conservation partners and protecting great apes for future generations.