Baby gorilla makes debut at Philadelphia Zoo

Honi, a western lowland gorilla, holds her newborn. The infant was born Friday.

The Philadelphia Zoo's gorilla exhibit just got a little bigger and a whole lot cuter.

Honi, one of the zoo's western lowland gorillas, gave birth Friday. And now, after mom and baby have had a few days of rest, visitors can see the newborn in the zoo's Peco Primate Reserve.

The baby is 21-year-old Honi's second birth and the first for Honi and father Motuba, 31, together, the zoo said. Both mother and baby appear healthy.

The newborn's gender isn't known yet because Honi has been carrying the baby too closely for zoo staff to determine its sex.

The Philadelphia Zoo's newest gorilla. (David Maialetti / Staff photographer)

The newborn made its public debut Wednesday. It's the first baby gorilla born at the zoo in about 20 years.

As Honi's due date drew near, zoo staff baby-proofed the exhibit the protect the new gorilla from any hazards.

"Nets, firehoses and climbing structures with large loops and holes are fun for adult gorillas but must be reinforced and modified for Honi's baby," the zoo wrote in a blog post in mid-August. "Heavy logs and exhibit furniture must also be secured."

The baby is expected to remain at the zoo for a number of years, zoo officials said when Honi's pregnancy was announced this spring. Young gorillas typically stay with their mothers until they are 7 to 10 years old.

Today Philadelphia Zoo welcomed a new addition to the family: a western lowland gorilla baby born to Honi, the Zoo’s 21-year-old female and 31-year old silverback male Motuba. This is the second birth for Honi and the first birth for Honi and Motuba together. Mother and baby appear healthy but will be monitored by Zoo staff in the coming weeks and months. Like newborn humans, gorilla babies are essentially helpless, relying completely on their mother for care. Check back for updates on when the baby will be on exhibit with the rest of the troop in PECO Primate Reserve.

A photo posted by Philadelphia Zoo (@philadelphiazoo) on Aug 26, 2016 at 2:35pm PDT

The new addition brings the zoo's count of western lowland gorillas – a critically endangered species – to six. In addition to the baby, Honi and Motuba, the gorilla exhibit includes Louis, 17; Kira, 17; and Kuchimba, a 14-year-old who is Honi's son.

Honi, who was born at the Bronx Zoo, came to Philadelphia in March 2007. Motuba was born at the Columbus Zoo and came to Philadelphia from Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in February 2014.

After the baby's gender is known, the zoo will release a list of possible names; the public will be able to vote on the zoo's website for their favorite.