Gorilla's sex remains mystery

Moya - a boy or a girl? (Photo: www.zoopraha.cz)

Is it a boy or a girl? - this question was raised by the Czech tabloid press this week. No, we're not talking about a human child but a baby gorilla that was born almost a year ago at the Prague Zoo.

There had been gorillas in Prague since 1963, but little Moya, as the baby was named, is the first ever gorilla born in this country. Since last December when Moya was born, everyone has referred to the baby as "she". But what a recent close-up photo published in the daily Blesk reveals, looks quite obvious to a layman's eye - the baby is actually male! But experts aren't so fast in their judgment. Miroslav Spicka is a zoology expert from the Prague zoo.

"It is difficult to determine the sex of young gorillas. The penis is very small while on the other hand, the clitoris in females tends to resemble a penis both in shape and size. We consulted experts from major European zoos and some of them said they could not reliably determine the baby's gender and the rest said it was 95 percent sure that Moya was a girl."

The reason why Moya's keepers could not take a proper look is that everything is developing naturally in the band and there has been no reason to take the baby from its mother.

"If all goes well, we won't touch Moya for months or years. Because if there aren't any problems, health related or other, we won't have a reason. In any case, it's not at all easy with primates bred in a natural manner, that is without much contact with the keepers. Because any such handling would have to be done under general anaesthetics."

So the dispute might not be solved until little Moya grows up. But in any case, the name "Moya" meaning "The First" in Swahili, will suit both a male and a female.