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Gorilla and mother of baby boy share touching moment at the Franklin Park Zoo

Kiki gave birth to Pablo at the Franklin Park Zoo on Oct. 14, 2020.
Kiki gave birth to Pablo at the Franklin Park Zoo on Oct. 14, 2020.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

A newborn baby recently caught the attention of a gorilla at the Franklin Park Zoo.

Michael Austin, 24, witnessed the encounter that his wife, Emmelina, and 1-month-old son Canyon experienced with Kiki the gorilla and captured the tender moment on video.

Austin, who lives in Maine, said he and his wife and son came to Boston with his mother and sister for a weekend getaway and decided to visit the Franklin Park Zoo on May 1. While they were there, they stopped by the gorilla exhibit and got to see Kiki up close in the zoo’s glass enclosure.

In the video clip, Kiki gently touches the glass while looking down at Canyon in his mother’s arms. When Emmelina put Canyon’s hand up to the glass, Kiki did the same, as if she was trying to hold the baby’s hand.


Kiki herself had a baby recently. On Oct. 14, 2020 she gave birth to a 6-pound, 3-ounce male gorilla named Pablo.

“Emmelina kept telling me that Kiki seemed to be very interested in the baby but I thought she was just imagining it,” Austin wrote on the video’s YouTube page. “The next time she made eye contact with Kiki, she held up Canyon again and waved her over, then Kiki grabbed Pablo and put him on her leg to carry him over to us. My wife sat on the floor and Kiki came over and immediately started interacting with us.”

Austin said Kiki used her hands to communicate with them through the glass.

“It was one of the most amazing experiences to see her trying to hold Canyon’s hand, lick him through the glass, and she just kept on pointing to us and then down at him, almost as if she was telling us ‘That’s your baby,’ ” he wrote.


Kiki was born at the Bronx Zoo in August of 1981, and has been at Franklin Park Zoo since May 1982, zoo officials said.

At one point in the video, Pablo approached the glass. Kiki then brought Pablo up closer to Canyon and Emmelina.

Throughout the video, the voices of delighted onlookers could be heard in the background saying “Awww,” “Oh my God...take a picture,” and “That is so sweet!”

Emmelina, 22, said when she watched Kiki interact with Pablo, she could see how much Kiki cared for him.

“You could see the mother’s love in her,” Emmelina said in a telephone interview. “I felt like I could relate to her because I have a baby now as well.”

Emmelina said she had noticed that Kiki kept looking over at Canyon.

“When she stood and picked up her baby, I knew she was coming to see us,” she said.

When Kiki came over, her body language showed how interested she was in Canyon, and she was gentle in her approach.

“You can tell she wanted to hold him,” she said. “It was like she was saying, ‘He’s so precious.’ ”

Emmelina said she was happy her husband pulled out his cellphone and recorded their interaction.

“It was such an amazing experience,” she said.

Austin said both he and his wife had tears in their eyes when it happened. It was a memorable moment they will always be able to look back on.

“We had several people tell us they had never witnessed something or experienced something so beautiful as this in their life,” Austin wrote. “Such an incredible memory to share with our son someday!”


Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.