Following a five-day public vote, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s (NZCBI) recently-born western lowland gorilla has been christened ‘Zahra,’ a Swahili term for ‘beautiful flower.’ The voting, conducted on the Zoo’s website between June 5 to June 9, saw over 25,000 participants, with Zahra winning by securing 50% of the total votes, equal to 12,071 votes.
Zahra, the Swahili moniker, emerged victorious over two other names on the ballot. ‘Lola,’ which translates to ‘greatness’ in Yoruba, secured second place with 7,894 votes, or 30% of the total. The name ‘Mkali,’ meaning ‘fierce’ in Swahili, came third, receiving 5,563 votes, equivalent to 20% of the total vote.
The new addition to the western lowland gorilla troop at NZCBI was born on May 27 on the Zoo’s Washington, D.C., campus. Zahra is the second offspring of 20-year-old mother Calaya and 31-year-old father Baraka. The troop also includes Zahra’s older brother, 5-year-old Moke, alongside a 41-year-old female gorilla named Mandara and her 14-year-old daughter, Kibibi.
Virtual followers keen to observe Zahra’s growth and development can do so through the Zoo’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. The Zoo encourages visitors to the Great Ape House to observe the western lowland gorilla troop and interact with an animal keeper at 11:30 a.m. daily.
Western lowland gorillas are native to Africa, with their habitats spread across the forests of Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. However, their survival faces significant threats. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the species is critically endangered due to poaching, habitat loss, and disease.
The public has the potential to contribute to the conservation of these gorillas’ natural habitat through environmentally conscious decisions. A key example revolves around the metal tantalum, used in electronic devices, which is mined from areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where gorillas live. By recycling electronics containing tantalum, such as cell phones, computers, tablets, cameras, gaming consoles, hearing aids, and GPS navigation systems, the public can protect gorilla habitats by reducing the demand for more extensive mining. According to the NZCBI, this action can significantly contribute to the conservation of these beautiful and endangered animals.