Thursday, December 20, 2012

Getting Baby Ready to Nurse

Gorilla Mom Jamani is forever twisting herself to grab hold of her boy Bomassa and reposition him. It is just astounding that such a small baby is able to grab on to the fur of a moving mom and trust his own strength and agility in order to stay put while she is roaming around on all fours, or while she rights herself to stand up tall. The boys Apollo and Bomassa have been experts at this clinging since very soon after birth.  In this photo, Jamani is reaching for Bomassa in order to carry him in her arms, presumably so that he can help himself to a  nice warm meal of milk.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Introducing Olympia Gorilla

Olympia Gorilla has not always lived at the NC Zoo.  She came from Zoo Atlanta, where she was born in 1996.  It was important to move her to NC in order to complete a part of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) so that she could mate with Nkosi and give birth to that adorable little bundle we now know as Apollo. But how was this transfer and introduction accomplished? Believe it or not, gorillas sometimes come by UPS. Yes, there is an animal shipping service. Who knew?

No matter how a new animal arrives at the zoo, the first step is quarantine.  When she arrived in August of 2011, Olympia was kept separate  just in case she might have been carrying any communicable disease.  After an appropriate length of time, she was given visual access to the other gorillas, and only later, was Olympia allowed to mingle with the other females, Acacia and Jamani. Eventually as per zoo protocol, the male is added into the mix, in this case Nkosi, Asheboro's silverback.  All steps went well, everyone appeared to be getting along, and now we can see all the gorillas roaming the exhibit area together.  Here is a video showing Olympia exploring the Forest Glade for the very first time. Interestingly, the zookeeper in video points out that Olympia seemed to be Nkosi's favorite at the time. Even now, Nkosi will often go to Olympia and put his big arms around her and give her a sweet hug chock full of gorilla affection.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Gorilla Family

Nkosi the Silverback looks over her shoulder as Jamani holds Bomassa. For some reason, Bomassa spent most of the day inverted, being held upside down by his mom, or hanging upside down from her abdomen as she moved about the Forest Glade on all fours. Our faithful readers will know that there are more in the family, Olympia and her son Apollo, and Acacia, who has gone off birth control and could be carrying a little gorilla surprise at this very moment.

What happens when the boys get older? They will reach a point in maturity where they will no longer be able to get along with their dad. At this point, for gorillas in the wild, an arrangement must be made. Some of the young sons will transfer. They will just wander off on their own one day, and either join another troop, or find a lone female and start a troop of their own. Or there could be a battle for control of the troop; sometimes it is the eldest member who goes off into the forest after being fought off by the strongest of the sons.

What will happen at the NC Zoo? The boys will be transferred to another zoo, at the age of somewhere around six to eight years old. Or another possibility is that a new enclosure could be designed and built right here in NC, and readied to house a bachelor troop.  Male gorillas can get along okay if there are not females present!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gorillas Sure Can Climb

North Carolina zoo gorillas are excellent climbers
Pictured below, we see Nkosi at the top of the climbing structure in the Forest Glade. He climbs up there frequently. Sometimes he first takes up quite a  big pile of straw and smooths it out and then makes himself a nice little nest to hang out in for an hour or more after one of his meals. This nesting behavior is very typical of Western Lowland Gorillas living in the wild as well, although they don't always build the nests up off the forest floor. The troop will spend their days roaming, searching for good feeding spots and after they have dined, each of the members will make a little nest in which to have a rest before moving on to the next lush area full of appealing vegetation.

You won't often see the female gorillas climbing that structure, but indeed they are able. As a matter of fact, Acacia, the eldest and smallest of the gorilla ladies, once picked up a fallen branch and laid it against the viewing glass and then proceeded to climb right up to the very top of the glass in such a way that it appeared she might actually be about to escape.  Someone caught this on camera. It's must see video! Do click through and take a look.
Apollo keeps warm and safe by riding Olympia, as his dad, Nkosi, is perched on the tower

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Apollo, Youngest Gorilla at the North Carolina Zoo

In November, when this picture was taken,  Apollo was about two and a half months old.  Most of the time on that day, he was firmly attached to his mother Olympia. Gorilla moms hold their babies much of the time, but when they need a break or when it is time to move to the next feeding spot, they will gingerly lift the baby overhead and let the baby settle in to a comfortable spot where they can hang on to mom's fur using all four paws. On this day, Olympia was happy to have Apollo on the ground right next to her lap, where he lay unattached for a few minutes at a time. He's not ready to sit yet, but that will come soon enough and you'll be the first to know about it when it happens!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gorilla Size and Stature

Nkosi sits to the right of Olympia as she nurses Apollo
Gorillas amble around mainly on all fours, but they can stand upright to walk short distances. When Nkosi, head honcho at the Forest Glade exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo stands, he's only just a little taller than the average human male. We think of gorillas as being large, not because of height, but because of the breadth of their chests, the heft of their limbs and the volume of their heads. Of course the male gorilla has a particularly massive head, topped off by the famous sagittal crest, that bony line extending from the brow backward. But all adult gorillas have arms and legs much more substantial than the average human counterparts. Even the fingers of the females are huge. It is hard to know how those moms can so tenderly pick up the delicate arms and legs of their babies, having only their jumbo fingers to work with. But they do. Gorillas, regardless of their colossal body parts, are big sweeties.