Thursday, October 11, 2012

Two Mothers and their Gorilla Babies

Gorilla moms tend to hang out together. Here we see Jamani  holding her baby, Bomassa. Jamani is the larger of the two moms; seated behind her we see Olympia. She's got her baby cradled in her lap as well,  but we just can't see him. Olympia seems to be more private about motherhood than does Jamani, so it is a little trickier for zoo visitors to get a look at her son.
Jumani and Olympia hold their boys
Olympia sits peacefully  behind Jamani

Big trouble erupted a few days after this photo was taken.  One Friday morning, the zookeepers came in and noticed something  new. Olympia was cradling BOTH baby boy gorillas.  This put the zoo into quite a state of affairs. Both moms are nursing, both babies need their milk. The zoo wanted to get Bomassa away from Olympia and back into the rightful hands of his mother. This needed to happen fairly quickly too. As nursing mothers are aware, you can't go too long without nursing your baby, or your body just stops producing milk. Luckily,  Olympia was happily nursing and caring for both babies,  so Bomassa was in no imminent danger.

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No one knew what had happened, or why Olympia had stolen the baby.  This was the first case of a nursing baby being taken away from its mother by another female in a zoo. The zookeepers got on the phone with a consortium of other zoos across the country to try and figure out what to do.  It would not be wise to enter the cage and try to remove a baby from the arms of the mother holding it, even though that baby may not be her own. Gorillas are docile, they are vegetarian, they have no real reason to want to go after the zookeepers, but we are talking about that mother child bond here!  Besides which the strength of a gorilla is enormous. A gorilla would be able to crush a human hand quite easily, even during play, as one of the zookeepers pointed out to me. What to do? How long would this situation last? More details in the days to come.