Knoxville, Tenn. –The genders of Knoxville Zoo’s Western lowland gorilla babies have been determined and they have been officially named.  It’s a girl and a boy, and the one-month-olds have been christened Obi and Ubuntu.

The first gorilla born in Knoxville, who arrived in the early morning hours of May 28th to mother Hope is a girl and has been named Obi, (pronounced Oh-bee), which means “heart” in the Igbo language of West Africa.  The baby born five days later on June 2nd to mother Machi (pronounced MOCK-eee), is a boy and has been named Ubuntu (pronounced OOO-Boon-Too), which is a South African concept that means “I am; because of you”.   

The elusive task of determining the gender of the first Western lowland gorillas ever born in Knoxville involved careful study by Knoxville Zoo staff and veterinarians as well as input from experts at zoos around the country.  Determining the sex of gorilla babies requires deliberation over time due to the anatomy of the infants and the way gorilla mothers carry their babies, closely held chest-to-chest and belly-to-belly, when they are first born. 

The name Obi was chosen by the family of Jane and Rich Ray and the name Ubuntu was bestowed by the Brewington family.  Both families were the winning bidders for the opportunity at the zoo’s Zoofari fundraising gala in June.  Their generous contributions funded modifications to the Gorilla Valley habitat and indoor holding areas to ensure the babies would have a safe and stimulating environment in which they can thrive.   

Knoxville Zoo is Knoxville’s largest year-round attraction.  Located off exit 392 from Interstate 40, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in   animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. Currently, the zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.  Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. Next-day admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call 865.637.5331 ext. 300 or visit