Toronto Zoo gorilla picks son’s name by choosing one of five fruit piles

Charles the gorilla eyed a bank of cameras for a minute Wednesday morning before languidly reaching for a piece of fruit, unwittingly selecting his 2 1/2-month-old son’s name.


TORONTO — Charles the gorilla eyed a bank of cameras for a minute Wednesday morning before languidly reaching for a piece of fruit, unwittingly selecting his 2 1/2-month-old son’s name.

Nassir, that’s his baby.

The Toronto Zoo decided to give the proud papa a hand in choosing the name of their newest western lowland gorilla, born Sept. 2.

More than 5,000 name suggestions were submitted by members of the public. The only stipulation was the names had to start with the letter N, to honour the baby’s mother Ngozi.

Zoo staff and a group of children whittled the mass of names down to the top 10, which were then voted on online. The five most popular were displayed Wednesday in the gorilla habitat, with a pile of fruit beneath each.

As he entered the habitat Charles circled the perimeter once, then took a seat next to the Nassir sign. He stared at the gathered members of the public and media, apparently weighing his options for a little while, before eating some fruit.

Alice Mah and her two-year-old daughter April had originally submitted the name Nassir, so Charles’ selection was particularly special for them.

“We were so excited and we were taking video footage,” Mah said. “April was going, ’Oh, go get the Nassir apples!”’

They chose the name because of its Arabic meaning.

“We looked at African boy names and we were looking at the meanings of the names and we found that Nassir meant safe or to protect, so we thought that was an appropriate name for this little baby gorilla,” Mah said.

After Charles made his pick, zoo staff let Nassir’s mother and her newly named baby into the habitat, along with several other western lowland gorillas who made short work of the rest of the fruit.

Ngozi wandered the habitat with little Nassir clinging to her belly as curious onlookers oohed and aahed, trying to catch a glimpse of the tiny bundle.

The other name options for Nassir were Neo, Nico, Nigel and Nsambu. Fittingly, Nassir was also the last sign standing after the gathered gorillas knocked down the others while attempting to get the food and later while playing with toys.

Nassir’s birth was exciting for staff because the western lowland gorilla is designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered — one step away from being listed as extinct in the wild.

The listing, which includes the western lowland gorilla and Cross River gorilla subspecies, is based on “exceptionally high levels of hunting and disease-induced mortality,” according to the organization’s threat assessment.

Commercial hunting and the Ebola virus are estimated to have caused the subspecies’ abundance to decline by more than 60 per cent over the last 20 to 25 years.

Just Posted

WATCH: Every square tells a story: Edmonton expert is exploring Red Deer’s quilting history

Community members can bring in family heirloom quilts for documentation

Pine Lake shooter loses conviction appeal

Cory Lavallee sentenced in 2016 to nine years in prison for attempted murder

Police say a woman in the Red Deer area may be in danger

Public’s assistance is urgently requested

Cannabis legalization won’t impact one Red Deer pot clinic

Nothing changes for Compass Cannabis Clinic in Red Deer despite legalization

Cannabis retail store will open later in October in Red Deer

Two cannabis stores coming to downtown Red Deer

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

PHOTO: Chew On This! campaign draws attention to national poverty

Lunch bags were being handed out in front of The Hub downtown… Continue reading

Wickenheiser, Pegula reflect NHL’s trend toward diversity

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With a laugh, Kim Pegula’s competitive nature kicked in… Continue reading

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

DUBBO, Australia — The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were jokingly thanked… Continue reading

TV Review: A Roseanne Barr-less ‘The Conners’ is a triumph

NEW YORK — Can there be a “Roseanne” without Roseanne? The answer… Continue reading

Canadian manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent in August: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent to… Continue reading

Brian Mulroney joins board of directors of New York-based pot company

NEW YORK — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is joining the board… Continue reading

Canadians waking up to legalized cannabis: ‘My new dealer is the prime minister’

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Canadians across the country woke up to legalized… Continue reading

B.C. man accused of swimming naked in Toronto shark tank arrested in Thunder Bay

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — Police have arrested a B.C. man who is… Continue reading

Most Read