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For celebrity gorilla, third baby is a girl

Weeks later, zoo finally makes call

Franklin Park Zoo’s Kiki gave birth in early November, but only this week were staff members able to determine the gender of the gorilla’s third baby, who has yet to be named. Franklin Park Zoo’s Kiki gave birth in early November, but only this week were staff members able to determine the gender of the gorilla’s third baby, who has yet to be named. (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)
By Jeffrey Fish
Globe Correspondent / December 10, 2010

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It’s a girl! Over a month after Franklin Park Zoo’s famous gorilla, Kiki, gave birth to her third baby, staff members were finally able to get their hands on the newborn this week and give her a medical exam.

Determining the gender of a baby gorilla requires a close examination, said John Linehan, President of Zoo New England, which oversees the Franklin Park and Stoneham Zoos.

Getting close access to the baby, who was born Nov. 3, was no easy task, Linehan said. “Kiki literally didn’t put the baby down since she was born.’’

So the staff had to anesthetize Kiki Wednesday morning to get the baby, which went smoothly, according to Linehan.

Gorillas have been trained to allow staff to perform certain medical procedures, so Kiki leaned up against the cage and allowed staffers to inject her, instead of being shot with a dart, he said.

Although the baby was not happy to be separated from her mother, the exam went well, and she is in good health, Linehan said. The baby weighs 6.6 pounds and measures 18 inches long.

“There was a great joy among the staff in being able to hold a baby gorilla,’’ he said.

After about 2 1/2 hours, Kiki woke up from the anesthesia, and mother and daughter were reunited.

Kiki held on tight to her baby once more, and will allow little contact with the other gorillas until she feels comfortable, said Linehan. The baby’s older sisters, Kira, 11, and Kimani, 6, are curious about the new baby and they interact with her “to the extent that Kiki allows it,’’ Linehan said. Franklin Park Zoo is home to eight western lowland gorillas, including the baby.

Eventually, the older sisters will carry the baby and begin to learn all their “maternal behaviors short of nursing,’’ he said, adding that it is similar to how human girls interact with dolls.

The baby does not have a name yet, Linehan said, but a contest will start Dec. 17 to find one that fits her.

Jeff Fish can be reached at jfish@globe.com.