SF Zoo baby gorilla named Hasani

March 11, 2009 6:57:49 PM PDT
A baby gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo got a new name, chosen by its father.

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An infant Western Lowland gorilla was born at the San Francisco Zoo in December. He was called "Baby G" until his dad chose a name.

The zoo held a naming contest and asked the public to submit ideas. They got 5,000 from around the world, whittled them down to five and then assigned a color to each name.

The baby's father, Oscar, then picked from color-coded cantaloupes. The winner was the Swahili name Hasani, meaning handsome.

But though he is quite handsome, his mother didn't want anything to do with him from birth.

"We actually tried three or four times to reintroduce him to her thinking maybe she just needed a break. But she made it clear about the third time or fourth time that she was not interested," said primates curator Corinne MacDonald.

So Hasani's human caretakers are nurturing and feeding him 24/7 with overtime paid for by a generous donor. And Hasani gets more than just human attention.

"He's currently on Enfamil, human infant formula. He'll be on it for two more years and slowly switch over to regular milk, cow's milk and he'll stay on that for a few more years," said MacDonald.

The Western Lowland gorilla is an endangered species. Its African habitats have shrunk with human development and they've been difficult to support in areas of civil war.

Last year, four were born in captivity in the U.S. Zoos hope the captive animals will spur public interest in the plight of the wild population.

"So cute, like a real person, looks like a real person," said zoo visitor Martina Kavanaugh.

"Did you look like that when you were a baby? I was crawling!" said zoo visitor Christopher Foederer.

Hasani's public appearance was for the naming event only. It will be another couple months before he's ready to come out and greet his human admirers.

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