ATLANTA – World Gorilla Day will bring an extra cause for celebration this year: The event will also be the naming day of the youngest member of the gorilla population at Zoo Atlanta. In tribute to the significance of the day and in honor of his 2-month birthday, the western lowland gorilla infant born to Lulu on July 24 will be named on Sept. 24, and the world is invited to help choose his name.
Continuing until 11 p.m. on Sept. 20, members of the public are encouraged to visit zooatlanta.org/gorillanaming, where name submissions may be submitted online with a donation of $5 per submission. All donations received through the naming campaign will benefit The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Zoo’s longtime partner in gorilla conservation.
After Sept. 20, three names will be chosen at random to be featured in the infant’s family’s habitat in the Zoo’s Ford African Rain Forest on World Gorilla Day. At 2 p.m. on Sept. 24, the gorillas will determine the winning name with their first choice of one of three special enrichment items.
Zoo Atlanta and The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International have been partners in gorilla conservation for more than 20 years. The zoo supports the organization by providing headquarters space, information technology support and financial support, allowing the Fossey Fund to focus their efforts for gorillas and human communities in Africa. Over the years, the zoo has also provided the Fossey Fund with board leadership and program support, as well as shared scientific team members.
Lulu’s infant is the 24th gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta and bears a double legacy in the Zoo’s gorilla program. He is a grandson of the late Willie B. and a great-grandson of Ozzie, the world’s oldest living male gorilla at 58.
Every birth is crucial for western lowland gorillas. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, over a 25-year period the combined threats of poaching, illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade, habitat loss and emerging diseases such as Ebola have reduced their numbers by 60% in the wild, with declines of as much as 90% in some parts of their range in western Africa. Populations living within North American zoos are overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla Species Survival Plan, which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse gorilla population for future generations, and in which Zoo Atlanta is an active partner.
Research by Zoo Atlanta team members has influenced industrywide improvements in the care of gorillas in zoos, as well as enhanced the world’s understanding of gorillas, with more than 100 published papers on maternal care, reproduction, social behavior and cognition. Zoo Atlanta is the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first effort to understand, diagnose and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos.
Follow hashtag #SilverbackStory on Zoo Atlanta Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for regular updates on the infant’s growth and milestones. To learn more about the gorillas of Zoo Atlanta or World Gorilla Day, visit zooatlanta.org.