Philadelphia Zoo is pleased to announce that its newest addition, a western lowland gorilla baby, has a new name. After an overwhelming number of votes from the global community, the name “Amani” won in a landslide. Amani means “peace” in Swahili, one of the languages spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Amani and her mother, 22-year-old Honi, are doing well with the rest of the troop in their home in the Zoo’s PECO Primate Reserve.
Philadelphia Zoo enlisted the global community to help name the infant and partnered with the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a sanctuary that cares for highly endangered Grauer’s gorillas (also called eastern lowland gorillas) whose families have been killed by poachers. Philadelphia Zoo staff chose from a list of names of the gorillas who currently live at GRACE and online voters were asked to donate a minimum of $1.00 per vote, with all of the proceeds benefitting GRACE’s gorilla care and conservation work. Voters donated $6,600 and the Zoo matched dollar for dollar with the total donation amount to GRACE at $13,200.
“We are thrilled that people around the world showed their support by helping to name our gorilla Amani and supporting orphaned gorillas at GRACE. Zoos have a vital role in fostering connections between people and animals and this is a great example of this linkage,” says Kim Lengel, the Zoo’s VP for Conservation and Education.
Amani is named after an 8-year-old gorilla who lives at GRACE and who was rescued in 2009 as part of a 3-month investigation by the Congolese wildlife authority. She was being offered for sale while stuffed into a plastic bag and was found dehydrated and with a bullet in her leg, a result of the poaching event that killed her family. Amani, which means “peace”, received her name because her rescue was facilitated by U.N. peacekeepers working in eastern DRC. Amani’s leg is permanently disabled as a result of her injury, but she now has a good life at GRACE. She lives up to her peaceful name, as she is the gentlest gorilla in the group. She loves to play with the younger gorillas and make peace after conflicts between group members.
“We are excited that our Amani now has a namesake at Philadelphia Zoo to be an ambassador for gorillas in the wild,” said Dr. Sonya Kahlenberg, GRACE Executive Director. “Grauer’s gorillas are on the brink of extinction, so raising awareness is critical. Amani is an appropriate name because gorillas are suffering from insecurity in DRC, thus peace is what they need more than anything. Unfortunately, orphans continue to arrive to GRACE in need of immediate help. We want to thank the Philadelphia Zoo community for supporting our efforts with Grauer’s gorillas in DRC. We look forward to watching little Amani as she grows!”
Both western lowland and Grauer’s gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with threats including poaching, habitat destruction, illegal pet trafficking and disease. Grauer’s gorillas are recognized as one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world by IUCN’s Primate Specialist Group, Conservation International, and the International Primatological Society. Philadelphia Zoo empowers guests to become great ape heroes encouraging them to join the Zoo to save these majestic animals.
Gorilla babies rely entirely on their mother for care during the first months of life, so Honi is in constant contact with baby Amani, cradling, cuddling and carrying her 24 hours a day. Dad, 31-year-old Motuba, is sticking close by to guard and protect the family, a role that male gorillas typically play in the group dynamic. Amani lives in PECO Primate Reserve with her mother, father Motuba and another female gorilla 17-year-old Kira.