Bashful baby bonobo born in Belgium

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A baby bonobo ape has been cradled in her mother’s arms since her birth in Belgium last week, offering zoo visitors only a brief glimpse of her face at feeding times.

Fiercely guarded by mother Djanoa, Planckendael zoo’s newest resident has drawn crowds of curious visitors since she was born on August 2.

The infant is the second bonobo born this year in what zookeepers say is a hopeful sign for the zoo’s population of endangered great apes, one of the closest primate species to humans.

“It’s so important that there’s a lot of bonobos born (in captivity) to keep the genetic variety as wide as possible,” Joris Jacobs, a keeper in charge of the bonobos at Planckendael, told Reuters.

In recent years, an average of six bonobos have been born to the population of some 120 currently held in captivity in European zoos.

The newborn, hiding from prying eyes in her mother’s arms at Planckendael, is the seventh bonobo born in Europe so far this year.

She has yet to be named. Visitors to the zoo will be asked to choose their favorite from among three traditional Lingala names, the language in the region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is home to the species.

Reporting by Elizabeth Miles; Editing by Andrew Bolton