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.