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A mother’s love

We could learn a lot from Ozala the Gorilla at Twycross Zoo in Warwickshire.   Her latest baby was born on 2nd January as a result of a successful primate breeding programme but so far keepers have been unable to determine the sex of the newborn since the 16-stone Mum won’t let anyone near her precious infant.

This is the 4th baby for 18-year old Ozala, and it may well be that she is over-protective since her 1st offspring, Matadi, born in 2003, was taken away from her and is now being cared for at Paignton Zoo in Devon.  Her 2nd, a female called Ndoki  sadly died aged 3 months in 2007  and her 3rd, a male called Okanda was born in April last year.   Okanda survived after some initial health problems and is now being cared for in Stuttgart Zoo in Germany.

I do hope she is allowed to keep this new addition.  It seems extremely cruel to me that she should be parted from her babies when she so clearly has extremely strong maternal instincts.   I accept that Gorillas are a critically endangered species, but come on!  How could you separate these two?

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Bigger news

OK, I was wrong … the biggest news of the day is the announcement that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant with her and Prince William’s first child.   But can you spot the similarity between these two photos:

Royal collage

The answer?  Well they’re both expecting baby W[h]ales of course!!!  BOOM!!!!!

The Palace have taken the unusual step of publicising the Royal pregnancy prior to the 12 weeks stage because Kate has been admitted to hospital suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness requiring supplementary hydration and nutrients.

This baby’s future is of course already mapped out.   He/she will be third in line to the throne, after Prince Charles and Prince William and will one day be head of the armed forces, supreme governor of the Church of England and subsequently head of state of 16 countries.

So congratulations to them – just remember Kate, one more and your job is done!

Monstrosity or Work of Art? You decide!

If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to divide opinion, you could do no better than to “borrow” a Damien Hirst sculpture!  This is precisely what the seaside town of Ilfracombe, Devon has done by accepting his controversial statue, Verity, a pregnant woman wielding a sword, on loan for the next 20 years.

Verity, described by Hirst as a ‘modern allegory  of truth and justice’, carries the scales of justice and is standing on a plinth  of law books.  The naked pregnant figure holds a sword and has  part of her anatomy exposed – a baby clearly visible in the womb.  She stands at 20.25m from plinth to sword tip, is slightly taller than the Angel  of the North and weighs more than 25 tonnes.

Why Ilfracombe?  Well apparently Hirst lives in the town and also owns a restaurant there so presumably he wants it close by.  In addition he probably thought that the town already had a controversial structure in the Landmark Theatre [which is known locally as “Madonna’s Bra”, a reference to its shape], so why not have another one to really  make it a place to talk about?

Personally I quite like the smooth side of the statue but find the exposed side somewhat disturbing, but I guess that was the artist’s intention?

There are many locals who regret the decision of Ilfracombe town planners over the years to pull down Victorian buildings and to replace them with modern structures that don’t fit with the character of the town. The Landmark, which – from a distance – looks much like the cooling towers of a power station, and now this latest addition, represent this unfortunate inclination.

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Should this be happening in the 21st Century?

I have just read the most awful story on the BBC News Website!

Headed up “The ‘baby box’ returns to Europe” it goes on to describe how these boxes, which were common in medieval times, where people can leave an unwanted baby, have been making a comeback in recent years!

Supporters say that a heated box, monitored by nurses, is better for babies than abandonment on the street – but the UN says it violates the rights of the child.

“Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that every child has ‘the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents’ – when a child is abandoned, this right is violated” (source University of Nottingham)

The idea has taken off in various locations across Europe and the statistics currently available from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child are:

Boxes by country:

  • Germany – 99
  • Poland – 45
  • Czech Republic – 44
  • Hungary – 26
  • Slovakia – 16
  • Lithuania – 8
  • Italy – 8 (approx.)
  • Belgium – 1
  • Netherlands – 1 (planned)
  • Switzerland – 1
  • Vatican – 1
  • Canada – 1
  • Malaysia – 1
  • Also exist in Japan and the US

The law in some countries encourages their spread in popularity – in Hungary, for example, it was changed so that leaving a baby in the official baby box was deemed to be a legal act amounting to consent to adoption, while dumping a child anywhere else remains a crime.

Further details discovered about a box in Berlin was that once placed in the box, the baby is apparently supported by the full facilities of a maternity unit. As soon as a baby is in the hatch, an alarm rings and medical staff come, even as the mother walks away unseen. The baby is cared for in the hospital and then fostered before going into the legal system for adoption. In the early period, mothers can return and retrieve their child, but later they can’t – adoption is final.

It’s difficult to find out the full figures of how many relent – the critics of the system say that in Germany it is well-appointed, with the best facilities, but in some of the poorer countries to the east, baby boxes are less well organised.

But at one baby box in Hamburg, for example, there have been 42 babies left in the last 10 years. Seventeen of those mothers have then contacted the organisers, and 14 have taken back their child.

The argument for these boxes has to be that they have to be better than providing no facilities at all and babies being abandoned and perhaps left to die, exposed to the elements.

The argument against is that it sends out the wrong message to pregnant women that they are right to continue hiding their pregnancies, giving birth in uncontrolled circumstances and then abandoning their babies.

There is no clear right or wrong in this – it is an argument between well-meaning people. The one voice never heard is that of the mother who walks the path with the baby she bore secretly hours earlier, to return without the bundle. Her tears and how she feels can barely be imagined.

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