It’s a Girl! --Philadelphia Zoo Confirms Gender of Gorilla Baby

09/27/2016

(Philadelphia, PA) - September 27, 2016 - Philadelphia Zoo is pleased to announce that its newest addition, a western lowland gorilla baby, born August 26th, is a girl! The infant and her mother, 22-year-old Honi, are doing well and are currently on exhibit along with the rest of the troop in PECO Primate Reserve.

Philadelphia Zoo is enlisting our global community to help name the newborn and wants to use this opportunity to support gorilla conservation. The Zoo has therefore partnered with the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a sanctuary that rehabilitates highly endangered Grauer’s gorillas (also called eastern lowland gorillas) whose families were killed by poachers. Online voters can help name the new gorilla by choosing from a list of names that honor orphaned gorillas being cared for by GRACE. Voters are asked to donate a minimum of $1.00 (with no maximum) per vote with all of the proceeds benefitting GRACE’s gorilla welfare and conservation work in DRC. The Zoo will match the donations dollar for dollar up to $10,000. To see name options or to cast a vote and donate visit www.PhiladelphiaZoo.org/vote. Voting is open beginning Tuesday, September 27th  at 10am through Thursday September 29th at 4pm.

“We are thrilled to partner with Philadelphia Zoo on this naming campaign and thank them for supporting our efforts with Grauer’s gorillas in DRC,” said Dr. Sonya Kahlenberg, GRACE Executive Director. “Over the past 20 years, Grauer’s gorillas have experienced a catastrophic decline of nearly 80%, and if nothing is done, they could be the first great ape to become extinct in the wild. The Zoo’s support will help us give orphan gorillas a second chance and will boost our work with local communities on conservation education and other programs critical for safeguarding wild gorillas and their habitat.”

“We are pleased to support and partner with GRACE,” says Kim Lengel, the Zoo’s VP for Conservation and Education. “The long-term survival of gorillas in the wild will require the on-grounds efforts of organizations like GRACE as well as awareness, support and engagement of “local action/ global consequences” on issues like climate change and deforestation-free palm oil, both of which impact gorillas in parts of their native habitat. We hope that naming Honi’s new baby after an orphaned gorilla at GRACE, and inviting our global community to select the name, will help make that connection and engage many in the efforts to save gorillas and other wildlife.”

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. (http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/Save-Wildlife/UNLESS-Campaign/UNLESS-Project/Send-a-Message.htm).

Gorilla babies solely rely on their mother for care during the first months of life, so Honi is in constant contact with the infant confidently cradling, cuddling and carrying her 24 hours a day. Dad Motuba is sticking close by to guard and protect the family, a role that male gorillas typically play in the group dynamic. The infant lives in PECO Primate Reserve with her mother, 31-year-old father Motuba and another female gorilla 17-year-old Kira. Viewing times for the baby may vary. Visitors may see the family on exhibit inside of PECO Primate Reserve, in their outdoor habitat or traversing the Zoo360 trail system. “Honi is a big fan of Zoo360 and has already carried her baby into the elevated trails,” says Dr. Andy Baker the Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer.

Once online voters donate, their information will be entered to win a Zoo prize package courtesy of PECO that includes a family plus membership, a behind-the-scenes experience, $25 food voucher and $25 zoo shop gift certificate. To find out name options or to cast a vote and donate visit www.PhiladelphiaZoo.org/vote. For updates on the baby or to ADOPT a western lowland gorilla, visit PhiladelphiaZoo.org, or follow our social media channels: Twitter: @PhillyZoo, Instagram @PhiladelphiaZoo and Facebook.com/PhiladelphiaZoo.

ABOUT PHILADELPHIA ZOO:

America's first zoo and one of the region's foremost conservation organizations, Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. By connecting people with wildlife, Philadelphia Zoo creates joyful discovery and inspires action for animals and habitats. The Philadelphia region’s leading family destination, the Zoo welcomed more than 1.25 million visitors last year. Philadelphia Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. For more information on Philadelphia Zoo, as well as to purchase and print tickets online, visit us at www.PhiladelphiaZoo.org. Facebook: Facebook.com/PhiladelphiaZoo; Instagram: @PhiladelphiaZoo; Twitter: @PhillyZoo. The Philadelphia Zoo is a non-smoking facility.

 

ABOUT GORILLA REHABILITATION AND CONSERVATION EDUCATION (GRACE) CENTER:

GRACE was founded in 2009 and is the only facility in the world dedicated to providing in situ rehabilitative care for orphaned Grauer’s gorillas.  GRACE also works with local communities, through education and other outreach programs, to help ensure the long-term survival of wild gorilla populations. For more information about GRACE, please visit us at www.gracegorillas.org, and follow us on social media (Facebook: GRACE4gorillas and Twitter: @GRACEgorillas).

Frequently Asked Questions

09/27/2016

When was the infant born?

The baby was born to 22-year-old mother Honi and 31-year-old father Motuba late in the afternoon on Friday, August 26th and debuted to the public on Wednesday, August 31st. The baby is currently on exhibit in PECO Primate Reserve with her parents and other troop mate Kira.

Boy or girl?

On Tuesday, September 27th Philadelphia Zoo announced to the public that the newborn is a girl.

Has the baby been named?

Philadelphia Zoo is enlisting our global community to help name the newborn. The Zoo will provide a list of names of orphaned gorillas living at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from which to choose. Join with us in supporting gorillas by contributing a minimum donation of $1.00 (with no maximum) per vote, with all of the proceeds benefitting the gorillas at GRACE. The Zoo will match the donations dollar for dollar up to $10,000.

How can I vote?

To find out name options or to cast a vote and donate visit www.PhiladelphiaZoo.org/vote.

What is GRACE?

GRACE stands for Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center and is the only facility in the world that rehabilitates highly endangered Grauer’s gorillas, a critically endangered gorilla subspecies. The gorillas at GRACE Center in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were orphaned when their families were killed by poachers. For more: www.gracegorillas.org. GRACE is a 501(c)(3) organization in the U.S.

Why is the Zoo partnering with GRACE?

Philadelphia Zoo shares with GRACE a commitment to gorillas - in zoos, sanctuaries, and the wild. GRACE rehabilitates orphaned Grauer’s gorillas whose families were killed by poachers. With the arrival of Honi’s baby, the Zoo will harness the enthusiasm generated by the baby to support gorilla conservation through donations and through engaging our onsite and online guests in action on behalf of gorillas. Western lowland and Grauer’s gorillas (Eastern lowland) are listed as Critically Endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with threats including poaching, habitat destruction, illegal pet trafficking, and disease. Philadelphia Zoo empowers guests to become great ape heroes, encouraging them to join the Zoo to help save these majestic animals. 

What are the names the community can vote on? Meanings?

  • Amani: (ah-MAH-nee): Means “Peace”
  • Muyisa: (moo-YEE-sah): Means "luck"
  • Mapendo: (ma-PEN-doh): Means “Great Love”
  • Isangi: (eee-SANG-ghee): Name of the village in Congo where this orphaned gorilla was rescued


How much does a baby gorilla weigh?

We don’t know our baby’s weight exactly, since it stays 24/7 with Honi. A typical newborn weight for gorillas is 4-5 pounds.

What will the baby gorilla eat?

The baby will nurse exclusively for the first 5 or 6 months, then will begin to eat solids.  She will continue to nurse for at least 3-4 years.

Is this Honi’s first pregnancy?

Honi has one other offspring. Kuchimba, who was born in 2002, also lives at Philadelphia Zoo but is too old to still be living with his mother. He spends specific periods of time with another male silverback, Louis.

How has Honi been caring for the baby?

Gorilla babies solely rely on their mother during the first months of life, so Honi is in constant contact with the infant, confidently cradling, cuddling and carrying her 24 hours a day. The infant currently lives in PECO Primate Reserve with her parents and other troop mate female gorilla Kira.

How long will the baby stay with mom?

Typically gorillas give birth to only one infant at a time. From the time they’re about 4 months to 2 or 3 years old, young gorillas ride on their mothers’ back as a form of transportation. At around 7 to 10 years, the young gorilla will become mature enough to leave its mother.

Who is the father of the baby and what will his role be in raising the baby?

The baby was sired by the gorilla troop’s silverback, 31-year-old Motuba, who has one other offspring at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo born in 2003 – her name is Bambio. Male gorillas don’t have a direct role in caring for newborns but Motuba is sticking close by Honi and the baby to guard and protect the family a role that male gorillas typically play in the group dynamic. As the baby gets older Motuba may interact more with her and possibly even play with her. Each gorilla is an individual and has their own characteristics, so we’ll learn how Motuba behaves as a father as the baby gets older.

When can guests see the baby on exhibit?

Viewing times for the baby may vary and visitors can see the family on exhibit inside of PECO Primate Reserve, in their outdoor habitat or traversing the Zoo360 trail system. When mom wants to have quiet time she retires to her downstairs bedroom with the newborn.

What other gorillas live at the Zoo?

Philadelphia Zoo has six western lowland gorillas: 31-year-old Motuba, 22-year-old Honi, 16-year-old Louis, 17-year-old Kira and 13-year-old Kuchimba, who is also Honi’s son, and the new baby girl born on Friday, August 26, 2016. This baby will be among the first generation of animals to grow up and explore Zoo360, the Zoo’s a first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration system.

Will the baby and mom Honi continue to live with Motuba, Kira?

Yes. The family will continue to live together, as they would in the wild, unless behavior or health issues indicate we need to separate Honi and the newborn from either of the other gorillas in the group.

Will the baby remain at Philadelphia Zoo?

The baby will most likely remain with Honi and the group at Philadelphia Zoo until she becomes mature. After that, she may stay here or may move to another zoo as part of the AZA Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program. (The SSP helps to ensure that the gorilla population in zoos remains genetically and demographically healthy). In the wild, many gorillas leave the group they were born in by the time they are ten or so, with females joining other groups and males sometimes living alone or with other males until they can form a group of their own.

Will the other gorilla’s living at the Zoo have the opportunity to breed?

Philadelphia Zoo works with the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program to cooperatively manage species population within accredited zoos and aquariums. These recommendations are intended to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically stable AZA population. Although matches are made primarily on the basis of genetics, with certain animals like great apes, other factors come into play including social structure and personality. Based on the SSP analysis, the other female in our family group, Kira, also has been ok’d to produce offspring with Motuba. Kira would be a first time mother and will benefit from watching Honi’s maternal care.

What is the status of gorillas in the wild?

All four subspecies of gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary threats impacting wild western lowland gorillas are threats including habitat destruction, illegal pet trafficking, poaching, and diseases like Ebola virus. Long-term, climate change may increase the threat to gorillas due to drying trends and impact on their habitat. Grauer’s gorillas, the subspecies being supported by the Zoo’s naming campaign, 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.

Baby Gorilla - Frequently Asked Questions

09/02/2016

Find out answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the newest addition to our great ape family.

When was the infant born?

The baby was born to 21-year-old mother Honi and 31-year-old father Motuba late in the afternoon hours on Friday, August 26th.  The baby was debuted to the public on Wednesday August 31st and is currently on exhibit in PECO Primate Reserve with the rest of the family troop. Honi is being an amazing mom caring for the baby exactly the way she should. Motuba is also being a great dad and troop mate Kira is observing Honi’s fantastic maternal skills.

Boy or girl?

Like newborn humans, gorillas are essentially helpless, relying completely on their mother for care. Our keeper staff is leaving care of the baby to Honi and is not handling it at all. It may be some time before they are able to determine whether the baby is a boy or girl.

Has the baby been named?

Philadelphia Zoo is not soliciting names suggestions from the community for the baby.
Once the baby’s gender is identified and we’ve had the opportunity to discuss possibilities with the team that has cared for the gorillas during the pregnancy and birth, we will generate names that the community can then vote on asking them to choose their favorite via the Zoo’s website. 

How much does a baby gorilla weigh?

We don’t know our baby’s weight exactly, since it stays 24/7 with Honi. A typical newborn weight for gorillas is 4-5 pounds.

What will the baby gorilla eat?

The baby will nurse from Honi exclusively for the first 5 or 6 months, then will begin to eat solids.  It will continue to nurse for at least 3-4 years. 

Is this Honi’s first pregnancy?

Honi has one other offspring.  Kuchimba, who was born in 2002, is too old to still be living with his mother. He spends specific periods of time with another male silverback, Louis. We let the two determine when they’re ready for a “play date” to be over.

How has the Zoo been caring for Honi during her pregnancy?

Honi was of course closely monitored by the keeper and veterinary staff throughout the 8.5 months. Through well-established training programs at the Zoo, the staff has successfully obtained ultrasound images of the baby over the course of her pregnancy. Honi actively cooperated with the veterinary staff - in exchange for juice - by holding her belly up to the mesh while zookeepers and vets conducted the ultrasound examination. Other procedures including weigh-ins and temperature checks have also been completed throughout the pregnancy.

How long will the baby stay with mom?

Typically gorillas give birth to only one infant at a time. Newborn gorillas can weigh about 4 or 5 lbs. From the time they're about 4 months to 2 or 3 years old, young gorillas ride on their mothers' back as a form of transportation.  At around 7 to 10 years, the young gorilla will become mature enough to leave its mother. Gorillas can live around 35 years in the wild and more than 50 years in zoos.

Who is the father of the baby and what will his role be in raising the baby?

The baby was sired by the gorilla troop's silverback, 31-year-old Motuba, who has one other offspring at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo born in 2003 - her name is Bambio. Male gorillas don’t have a direct role in caring for newborns, although they are the group protectors. As the baby gets older, Motuba may interact more with the baby and even play. Each gorilla is an individual and has their own characteristics, so we’ll learn how Motuba behaves as a father as the baby gets older.

What other gorilla’s live at the Zoo?

Philadelphia Zoo has six western lowland gorillas: 31-year-old Motuba, 21-year-old Honi, 16-year-old Louis, 17-year-old Kira and 13-year-old Kuchimba, who is also Honi’s son and the new baby born on Friday, August 26, 2016. This baby will be among the first generation of animals to grow up and explore through Zoo360, the Zoo’s a first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration system.

Will the baby and mom Honi continue to live with Motuba, Kira?

Yes. The family will continue to live together, as they would in the wild, unless behavior or health issues indicate we need to separate Honi and the newborn from either of the other gorillas in the group.

Will the baby remain at Philadelphia Zoo?

The baby will most likely remain with Honi and the group at Philadelphia Zoo until he or she becomes mature. After that, he or she may stay here or may move to another zoo as part of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) program. (The SSP helps to make sure that the gorilla population in zoos remains genetically and demographically healthy). In the wild, many gorillas leave the group they were born in by the time they are ten or so, with females joining other groups and males sometimes living alone or with other males until they can form a group of their own.

Will the other gorilla’s living at the Zoo have the opportunity to breed?

Philadelphia Zoo works with the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program to cooperatively manage species population within accredited zoos and aquariums. These recommendations are intended to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically stable AZA population. Although matches are made primarily on the basis of genetics, with certain animals like great apes, other factors come into play including social structure and personality.

Based on the SSP analysis, the other female in our family group, Kira, also has been OKed to produce offspring with Motuba. Kira would be a first time mother and will benefit from watching Honi’s maternal care.

What is the status of gorillas in the wild?

Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered in the wild by the Internationals Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary threats impacting wild western lowland gorillas are commercial hunting and diseases, particularly Ebola virus. Long-term, climate change may increase in threat to the gorillas due to drying trends and impact on their habitat. 

What can I do to help save gorillas?

Gorillas are losing their forest homes to palm oil and timber plantations as global demand for palm oil and paper continues to rise. You can help protect habitat for gorillas by stopping your junk mail, and by thanking manufacturers leading the way toward using palm oil that’s deforestation-free. Guests can visit philadelphiazoo.org/unless-project to learn more about how to become a great ape hero and join the Zoo in working to save these majestic animals.