Washington D.C. – To engage the public and raise awareness about the critically endangered western lowland gorillas, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) has launched a naming contest for a baby gorilla born on May 27. Starting on June 5, gorilla enthusiasts can participate in the voting process to select a name for the newborn female gorilla. The winning name will be announced on June 9.

The western lowland gorilla population is under threat, classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Therefore, every birth within this species is a cause for celebration and offers hope for their survival.

Primate keepers—with help from the western lowland gorilla troop—revealed that the baby gorilla born May 27 at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is female. Pictured are Calaya and her newborn as well as Moke and Mandara. (Photo by Jen Zoon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Primate keepers at the NZCBI carefully selected three options to choose the potential names. Voters can choose from the following names: Lola [LOH-la], meaning “greatness” in Yoruba; Mkali [M-KAH-lee], meaning “fierce” in Swahili; and Zahra [ZAH-rah], meaning “beautiful flower” in Swahili. The most popular name choice will be given to the newborn gorilla.

This baby gorilla is the second offspring of both the 20-year-old mother, Calaya, and the 31-year-old father, Baraka. Zoo staff has observed Calaya nursing the baby, who has been clinging closely to her mother. The newborn appears to be healthy and strong, giving staff cautious optimism that she will thrive. Updates on the baby’s progress can be followed on NZCBI’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts using the hashtag #GorillaStory.

Gorillas live in social groups called troops, consisting of a dominant silverback male, one or more blackback males, several adult females, and their infant and juvenile offspring. Alongside the newborn, Calaya and Baraka, the troop also includes the baby’s brother, 5-year-old Moke, and a 41-year-old female named Mandara and her 14-year-old daughter, Kibibi. Visitors to the Great Ape House at the National Zoo can see the troop and interact with animal keepers, who provide valuable information about the fascinating world of gorillas. These daily sessions are held at 11:30 a.m.

Western lowland gorillas are native to Africa, specifically the forests of Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. Due to habitat loss, disease, and poaching, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified them as critically endangered. Scientists estimate that the wild population of western lowland gorillas has declined by 60% over the past two to two-and-a-half decades.

Protecting the natural habitat of western lowland gorillas requires the collective efforts of the public. Making environmentally conscious decisions, such as recycling, can play a significant role in their preservation. Tantalum, a metal found in electronic devices, is mined from areas where gorillas inhabit, particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This mining activity leads to habitat destruction, and gorillas often become victims of poaching as a result. By recycling electronics containing tantalum, such as cell phones, computers, tablets, cameras, gaming consoles, hearing aids, and GPS navigation systems, the demand for further coltan mining can be greatly reduced, consequently protecting gorilla habitats.

Participating in naming the baby gorilla provides an engaging way for the public to connect with these magnificent creatures and contribute to their conservation. Cast your vote now on the National Zoo’s website and be part of this exciting event that aims to secure a brighter future for the western lowland gorillas.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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