A heartwarming moment shared between a new mother and a gorilla almost didn’t happen.
Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo was closed when Emmily Austin and her husband planned to take their newborn son Canyon to the city.
They decided to put off the trip, traveling to Beantown from their home in Jefferson, Maine, the weekend before Mother’s Day, instead.
The Austins made it to the zoo, but a long line at the gorilla exhibit nearly thwarted the moment, again.
Austin wasn’t sure she wanted to brave the line with a newborn — Canyon was only 5 weeks old — but she decided the gorillas were worth the wait.
What happened in the exhibit promises to go down in family history.
“It was just meant to be,” Austin told McClatchy News.
Once inside, the Austin family spotted Kiki — a 39-year-old western lowland gorilla — playing with her children. Her youngest, Pablo, was born at the zoo in October.
“I could see in the mom’s eye that she was watching the two older daughters play with her baby,” Austin told McClatchy. “You could almost see that she was saying, ‘Be careful with him.’”
Austin watched Kiki interact with her young gorillas and decided she wanted to introduce Kiki to her baby. When Kiki looked in Austin’s direction, she held Canyon up to the glass.
“I was like, ‘Look, this is my baby,’” Austin said. “I was speaking to her and I knew she couldn’t hear me, but ... I knew she was looking at him.”
Kiki continued to groom Pablo, peeking at Canyon several times before Austin waved Kiki over — and the gorilla obliged.
“She picked her baby up and I immediately knew she was coming to see him,” Austin said.
She sat on the ground as Kiki approached the glass with Pablo in tow. That’s when Austin’s husband Michael started filming.
Video shows Kiki putting her hand to the glass as Canyon rests in his mother’s arms. Kiki appears to gesture to other gorillas to come see the baby.
“She just sat there looking at him so beautifully trying to interact with him,” Austin said.
Pablo is seen playing behind Kiki, occasionally approaching the glass and climbing up his mother’s arm. At one point, Kiki scoops Pablo up and the pair lounge against a rock peering at Canyon through the glass.
“It was just so emotional that an animal could share those feelings,” Austin said. “She just had this look in her eyes like, ‘He is so precious, he is so beautiful.’”
A crowd had gathered behind the unlikely new friends and Austin decided it was time to move along to give other people a chance to see Kiki and her family.
Several people approached the Austins throughout the day to share they’d been in the gorilla exhibit and witnessed the incredible interaction.
Austin said she can’t wait to share the video with Canyon when he’s older.
“We walked out and I had tears in my eyes,” she said. “I just kept saying I am so happy to share this with Canyon some day when he’s old enough to understand what happened.”