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May 26, 2016 Calgary Zoo

Gorilla Update- Baby has a name (and more)

New gorilla baby, Kimani, looks right into the camera. 
Photo credit: Shannon Collard.

Lead photo credit: Shannon Collard

A lot has happened recently at the Calgary Zoo- so it’s time for a gorilla update!

It’s been an eventful few months for our gorilla troop. We welcomed new life, with the first gorilla baby born in eight years, and said goodbye to a long-term leader, as silverback Kakinga passed away of age-related heart complications. Older female Zuri required an emergency surgery to treat a severe abdominal infection.

Baby name news

Though this was a stressful time for our Animal Care staff, we wanted to celebrate the positive things- like naming our female gorilla baby! It had to be perfect, so our zookeepers deliberated and picked their top three favourite names. Then we asked the public for help, and opened a naming poll on our website on May 6.

There was a voting frenzy for 12 days, and more than 47, 000 people weighed in to help name our little gorilla! We’re pleased to announce that the winner is Kimani – pronounced ‘key-MA-nee’; an African inspired name meaning beautiful and sweet. That name won in a landslide, with 38,486 votes, compared to Maisha with 4,236 and Tulia with 4,011! It is specially fitting that the name chosen by the public starts with ‘K’, like her parents Kioja and Kakinga.

Wondering how Zuri is doing?

Zuri, one of our eldest female gorillas in the troop.

Zuri, one of our eldest female gorillas in the troop.

Zoo supporters have also been asking after Zuri’s health, since it has been a month since her surgery. She is slowly improving, and though still resting a lot and not her usual self, her recent check-up shows that the infection is gone and she has finally begun to eat some solid foods. She’s still in serious condition and under careful monitoring by the Animal Care team, but we’re happy to see Zuri act more like herself every day.

Passing of a Patriarch

Many people in our zoo family have also asked how the gorilla troop has been faring after the death of silverback, Kakinga. As expected, they have been showing some signs of stress, acting restless or straying from their diets, but we also seen good days when they are calm and playful. It is natural for the troop to be unsettled and there will still be many difficult moments in the future, but we will continue to work hard to provide them with the best care possible.

Eventually we will introduce our females to another male silverback, however it is much too early to talk about the timing for that process- it takes a long time! Western lowland gorillas are part of the Species Survival Plan and we will work with the group to determine who might be a fit for our troop.

Calgary Zoo’s silverback Kakinga eating outside.

We appreciate your patience in between updates, and thank you for helping us name our new family member- welcome to the zoo Kimani!

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Comments (7)

  1. Carol Alexander

    Just yesterday I was searching for updates! Thankyou so much. Love to all staff and beautiful gorilla friends.

  2. Linda Willis

    Working as a volunteer, I met one of your keepers visiting the Toronto Zoo a couple of weeks ago. We had a lovely chat at our gorilla exhibit. It was interesting to hear about your troop and of course of the magnificent Kakinga. Its a relief to hear that Zuri is recovering. Our troops are so fortunate to have the best medical services possible. Sending continued prayers of comfort and support. Family is family, human or otherwise.

  3. Lynda

    So happy to hear Zuri is doing much better also the group is starting to come back a round. I know the staff are having a hard and difficult time but I also know they are a hardy group of talented vets and care staff as a whole thank you for all your hard work and thank you Calgary Zoo for your updates. Congratulations one the new baby’s name. Can’t wait to see them all in person next year as we are front Nova Scotia and have family in Calgary so until then. Thank you again. Lynda

  4. Thank you for sharing these news!

    Transparency is very important for modern zoos I believe. Some do not even tell the public when one of their gorillas dies, inevitably raising questions about the cause of death, and casting doubt on the quality of management/husbandry in general. That’s why I think articles like this one are so important. They show that you care.

    This been said, good luck for Kimani and the remaining troop!

  5. Kimberly

    It’s been a while since our family has been to the zoo! I am curious about Isabella the chimpanzee, if she still might be a part of the Calgary zoo!

    Thank you in advance for any info about her!

    • Calgary Zoo

      Hi Kimberly- we don’t currently have any chimpanzees here at the zoo, and we haven’t for a long time. Do you remember what year you saw her?

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