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Kumbi is the 150th baby gorilla to be born at parks operated by The Howletts Wild Animal Trust

Howletts Wild Animal Park is celebrating the birth of Kumbi, a Western Lowland Gorilla, an arrival that cements their status as the leading breeder of the beautiful, furry beasts.

In fact, The Howletts Wild Animal Trust (THWAT), which oversees Howletts and its nearby sister park, Port Lympne, has now been responsible for the births of a world record 150 gorillas since 1975. That's more than every other UK zoo and wildlife park put together and accounts for a whopping 66% of the total number bred in the UK.

And if you're one of a growing number of people who feel uneasy about zoos, fear not: Both Howletts and Port Lympne operate with the eventual goal of rewilding as many animals as possible. So far, The Aspinall Foundation which owns the parks has taken 27 of their Kent-born gorillas and set them free in areas of protected wilderness in Congo and Gabon.

Commenting on the milestone, Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, said: “We firmly believe that animals belong in the wild and are committed to continuing to facilitate their return to areas of protected wilderness. We have been successfully reintroducing gorillas into the wild for the last 40 years and are proud to have had over 35 births to released animals so far.

"Despite our decades-long success in rewilding these incredible animals, we remain the only organisation in the world to return gorillas to their rightful homes in this way and our hope is that one day, Kumbi will follow in the footsteps of other gorillas and be rewilded in Gabon.”

While they'd undoubtedly be happy to feel the African sun on their faces and roam free in their native habitats, they'd be forgiven for missing the luxuries they enjoy in South East England. Howletts and Port Lympne put their success down to the exceptional care provided by their staff, which includes a menu featuring over 100 food choices.

And while guests are invited to view and help feed the gorillas and hundreds of other species in the parks, they're never locked into viewing areas for the benefit of park guests. The Port Lympne enclosure even features a secret, hidden door where gorillas can escape to their bedrooms, which are heated in winter and air conditioned in the summer.

As well as watching young Kumbi as he learns to navigate the world with his father, Ebeki, guests at Howletts can enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime Gorilla Encounter, which offers behind-the-scenes access to the enclosure and - weather permitting - the chance to join the keeper on the roof while the gorillas are being fed. You can read about our giraffe encounter at Port Lympne, here.

And regular guests will be able to watch on in the hope they catch a glimpse of Kent's newest gorilla as he follows dad around the enclosure.

Howletts Wild Animal Park, Bekesbourne Ln, Bekesbourne, Littlebourne, Canterbury CT4 5EL

Entry to Howletts from £15pp in advance (includes 10% donation to The Aspinall Foundation)

Gorilla encounter costs £85pp

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