Thursday, November 29, 2012

Who's Who at the Zoo?

The Gorilla Troop at the Forest Glade
In the wild, there can be up to some thirty gorillas living in a troop, but here at the Forest Glade enclosure at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, there are currently six:

  • Nkosi-Adult Male (The Silverback)
  • Acacia-Adult Female 
  • Olympia-Adult Female and mother
  • Jamani-Adult Female and mother 
  • Bomassa-Baby boy, son of Nkosi and Jamani
  • Apollo-Baby boy, son of Nkosi and Olympia

Olympia sits on the right holding Apollo, and Jamani stands on the left, with Bomassa secure on her furry back.  It would be difficult to get a picture of all the gorillas at one time, but the moms hang out pretty close to each other quite often, so that's an easy shot. When are you going for a visit? Bring your camera! These animals are pretty photogenic.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Silverback is the Boss

The boss gorilla at the NC Zoo  is a sweet dad

Nkosi is totally in charge of his troop, which consists now of  three females and two young babies. He always looking out for the members of the troop; volunteers tell me that when Olympia starts to get sticky fingers,  he comes over and beats his chest, at which point she gets in line pretty quick and takes her hands off Baby Bomassa. That's a scary sound, that chest beating, but I've never personally seen Nkosi be aggressive. As a matter of fact, the last time I visited, Nkosi headed over to Olympia and sat down right in front of her, tenderly encircling her with his massive furry arms. Olympia had little Apollo clinging to her back at the time; Nkosi spent the next fifteen minutes or so nuzzling that tiny son of his with his nose.

That all happened on the same day when I had scared Nkosi by accident. No one was at the window when I arrived. I had approached very quickly, eager to see the troop once again. Nick, as they call him, looked at me and jumped when I suddenly appeared! Next time, of course,  I will enter more gingerly. Poor guy, I did not mean to scare the biggest gorilla in the zoo. That magnificent silverback has a lovely disposition though, and calmed down immediately when he took stock of the fact that it was just me, a friendly visitor. Gorillas, big and muscular though they are, seem to be more bark than bite. The leader of a gorilla troop will most definitely charge, attack, and bite when he feels his troop is threatened, but by and large a silverback is a peaceful vegetarian,  just like the rest of the gorillas.
Nkosi sauntering along next to Olympia, Baby Apollo on her back
This photo and others available for purchase at the ZooBabyPrints Gallery.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for the Simple Toys

A burlap bag is an excellent toy

We all know the story. You can spend big money on the latest toys, but the kids are going to go for the empty cardboard box every time. Same is true for gorillas. They are happy with very simple playthings. Olympia the mother gorilla, holding her baby boy Apollo,  is seated next to an empty burlap bag. He's a little too young to play very much yet, but these bags are plenty popular at the Forest Glade exhibit in the North Carolina Zoo.
Seventeen year old Acacia (the eldest female in the group) was hugging one for awhile during part of my recent visit. And three month old Bomassa was investigating another burlap bag by pushing it around a little with his nose.  Each day, zoo personnel bring out a dozen or so toys, and scatter them around for the gorillas to find. Some days they bring out about a dozen burlap bags. Other days they put out a bunch of big rubber rings which the gorillas like to pick up and wear like a necklace. Whatever the toy, it is fun to watch what the gorillas do with them.  Maybe Baby Bomassa Gorilla will talk about other toys one day on his Twitter.

Olympia and Apollo in the Forest Glade

Monday, November 19, 2012

How Can You Tell Twins Apart?

Same Father, Different Mothers
Bomassa and Apollo are not twins, they're half-brothers. Yet, it is next to impossible to tell them apart at this stage, when they are still only very small. Do both of the pics on this page show Bomassa? Are they both Apollo? Or is there one pic of each? I am pretty sure they are both Bomassa! No, maybe that's Apollo in both. No wait, it's Bomassa, it has to be.

Actually, I do know that the photo above is Bomassa. And how do I know this? Because Bomassa is securely attached to his mother Jamani's back, and I could see her face clearly before I cropped the photo.  Apollo is always being held by or tightly holding onto his mother Olympia.  And Jamani is always holding or otherwise attached to her dearie, Bomassa. Well except for that one incident a few pages back in the blog.  As for the photo below, I have no way of knowing. Does that look like Bomassa to you? I think it might be. But no, surely this one is Apollo, right? Oh never mind, don't ask me, I seriously don't know. 

Researchers are able to tell gorillas apart by their noses. A gorilla nose print is just as distinctive as a person's fingerprints. The shape and the wrinkles of each nose are unique. Maybe as the boys grow it will be easier to tell them apart. I hope so, because I am really looking forward to getting plenty of pics when they start to romp around  with each other, and I want to be able to tell you which is which!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Taking Refuge in Mama's Arms

Cuddling with Mama

The comfort of mother
At about three months of age, the boys are still grabbing onto their moms most of the time. I was not able to visit for a couple of weeks, and when I finally got back, I noticed little change in Bomassa, but Apollo had grown quite a bit and his mom Olympia was more willing to show him. In the past, she has almost always kept her back to the viewing window. Just as if she wanted to help him keep his privacy.

But this time I was able to get quite a few good shots of the youngest member of the troop at the Forest Glade.  Here we see Apollo with his two little arms wrapped around Olympia's hefty arm. Can you see his little fist grabbing onto the fur on the upper right? Total sweetheart!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Separating from Mama

Baby gorilla Bomassa pulls away from his mother.
Would you look at this?? This is momentous!  Bomassa, who was born on August 4, is now getting old enough  to pull away from his mother just a little. In this photo, taken on November 5, he was rocking back and forth on all fours, almost as if getting ready to crawl. The toy of the day was burlap bags, and Bomassa kept nosing up to that bag you see in the front,  and investigating it with his mouth. Jamani is happy to let him lie on the ground for a minute or two now. I saw her let him lie there while she went 6 or 8 feet away.  Just before this photo was taken, she stepped away to pick up a pile of straw, then laid the straw out, and proceeded to lie in the straw next to Bomassa. Exciting times at the Forest Glade!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Gorillas in Communication

Gorilla moms making up? I took this picture one day shortly after Olympia was grabbing the arm of Bomassa. Olympia once took Bomassa and kept him for a full five days before zoo personnel retrieved him and returned him to his mother Jamani (right). It very much looked to me as though Olympia was trying to take that baby back again when she grabbed that arm. Jamani  at that point made quick work of putting up her own arm and batting down Olympia's.

Animal Reconciliation?
So what is going on in the photo taken just a few minutes after the rebuff? Is Olympia trying to reconcile with Jamani? The moms stood like this for quite awhile and appeared  perhaps to be rubbing each other with their heads. A long time zoo volunteer on duty that day told me he wished he could hear their sounds. Though the entire top of the enclosure is open to the elements, it is surrounded by stone walls and triple glass plexiglass windows. As a result, visitors are unable to hear the grunting and low groans and growls those gorillas make inside. Those noises give very strong clues as to what a gorilla might be feeling inside.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What Baby Gorillas Eat

Jamani munches on browse as Bomassa practices grasping
Baby gorilla is hungry! Here we see young Bomassa reaching for some food, but he won't be ready to eat those leaves for a few months yet. Half brother gorilla boys Apollo and Bomassa are likely to nurse for some three or four years, and when they do start eating solid foods, they will probably begin by nibbling at some grasses.  The gorilla diets in the North Carolina Zoo are strictly managed in hopes of reducing cardiac problems.

What do gorillas eat? These vegetarian apes eat some forty to fifty pounds of food per day, when full grown. They eat browse, which are branches lain about the enclosure, plenty of greens such as lettuce, and they also dine on  bell peppers and some other vegetables. I think I saw a cucumber in there once.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Not All Baby Gorillas Grow Up

Bomassa rides on Jamani, right,  Apollo rides Olympia
Some baby gorillas never get the chance to grow into healthy adults. Even in the apparent safety of  a secure zoo enclosure,  gorilla babies face many threats. This year the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium lost a four-month old gorilla for unknown reasons. He simply became lethargic in his mother's arms. In a cruel twist of tragedy, the five year old much adored gorilla Tatu from the Prague zoo accidentally hung himself on a climbing structure this past July. The younger the gorilla, the more likely it is that problems will develop. Chicago's Lincoln Zoo saw the loss of a nine day old gorilla due to head injuries of unknown origin.

NC Zoo Gorilla Babies Thriving. Other than some continued moments of maternal jealousy,  Bomassa  and younger half -brother Apollo seem to be doing very well, nursing regularly and latching onto the furry backs of their mothers all under the watchful eye of their father, the silverback Nkosi.  When are you going out to see them ?