Zoo News

May 22, 2014

Nyah the Baby Gorilla

In September, we announced the birth of a baby gorilla to first time mom, Lily. Click here to see the original announcement.

by Jamie Kranz, gorilla keeper

Our baby gorilla now has an official name (and gender!) We have determined to the best of our ability that Lily’s baby is a female. Her name is Nyah (pronounced N-eye-uh), meaning “purpose” in Swahili. The name is fitting, since her birth resulted from a breeding recommendation from the gorilla SSP.

Baby Nyah. Photos by keeper Kayla Krajna

Gender determination in gorillas can be very tricky, males look like females, females look like males. Lily was a very protective mother, which is great, but it was difficult for keepers to get a close look at the baby. For any primate, the bond between mother and baby is important, and unless there was a health concern, there was no reason to intervene just to check the gender. Although not knowing was frustrating, a healthy baby was all that really mattered.

Lily was trained to bring the baby up to the mesh in their holding area. She would allow keepers to syringe and bottle feed the baby through the mesh. Luckily it was not needed, but this training was important. If Lily was unable to nurse, the keepers could have allowed the baby to remain in her care, while keeping the baby healthy through bottle feeding.

Adorable Nyah!

Canisius College has the ability to figure out DNA (XX or XY chromosome = Female or Male) through a cheek swab sample. Since Lily was used to the keepers sticking objects in the baby’s mouth, it was easy to get a simple cheek swab with a q-tip. We also took a sample from Koga since he will have the Y chromosome, indicating that he’s a male. The preliminary results showed that Koga did have a Y chromosome (He’s obviously a male, but this proved that the test worked) and the baby did not have a Y. Based on those results, and our own observations, we have determined that the baby is indeed a female.

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