Thursday, February 28, 2013

No More Monkey Chow

Salads are healthy, even for gorillas.  You can eat twice as much and still lose weight if that's all you are eating.  So that's pretty much what is served to the gorillas living in the Forest Glade at the North Carolina Zoo. Salad! No, it's not all mixed up in a big bowl and tossed with a lovely balsamic vinaigrette, but the vegetable components are there: carrots, peppers, celery, big heads of lettuce. And something called browse,  branches full of leaves. You will often see the gorillas picking up a branch and carefully eating each of the nourishing and vitamin filled leaves.

Six month old Baby Gorilla Bomassa
At one time, our NC Zoo gorillas ate a mix of foods, including something called Monkey Chow.  But heart disease was becoming the top killer for male western lowland gorillas. So a few years ago, some zoos returned gorillas to a more natural diet in order to see if they would lose weight and become more healthy.  It's called high fiber foraging, and it seems to be working! The new program has increased the time spent in eating. The gorillas used to spend only about 25 percent of their day eating the artificial food so densely packed with calories. But now they need to forage and eat for about fifty to sixty percent of their day. North Carolina is one of the four zoos to pilot the program under the direction of the Species Survival Plan. You can observe natural fed gorillas in Toronto, Columbus, and at the +Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.  Above, Bomassa's picked up a piece of celery. He's got a nice set of teeth, so it's possible he is actually eating some, but these days everything goes in his mouth. He was working on this piece for quite some time!

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Weighing a Baby Gorilla

An Ape's Maternal instinct is enough to keep a gorilla mother from handing over her baby to the zookeeper  So she won't do it, even when keepers need to weigh the baby to be sure he is thriving. Apollo is doing just fine, weighing in at about twelve pounds as of last week. But wait, how can we know that if Olympia is not anxious to share that bouncing bundle?

Olympia cradles Apollo
As a routine, the keepers will weigh the adult gorillas. And they are able to record a mother's weight when she happens to be holding the baby.  Then if she is still on the scale when the little gorilla decides to step away, keepers quickly look at the scale again. They make note of the amount,  and do a little subtraction to find the weight of the baby.  Apollo will be six months old at the beginning of March, making him slightly younger than his half-brother Bomassa. Yet he weighs more.  Even stranger given that his mother Olympia is the smaller gorilla. How is it possible that Apollo is heavier?  The two moms, Olympia and Jamani, were pregnant simultaneously, but there is no way of knowing who was actually pregnant first, and whether their gestation periods were exactly eight and a half months long, or not.   Other factors come into play as well, so who knows.   Maybe it is time for a growth spurt for Bomassa.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gorillas as Charismatic Mega-Vertebrates

Unconditional Mother's Love touches us deeply,  no matter the species. What you can't see here is that Bomassa has been biting his mom. Yep. That is his reaction when she keeps him under wraps. She wants to keep him safe. When he ventures too far from her, she is likely to grab his arm and bring him back. He will then open that toothy mouth of his and apply it to whichever of her body parts is near.

But look how Jamani Gorilla copes with that. She does not shun Bomassa, nor does she let him stray and get into danger. No, she just stands her ground and lavishes more love.  It is no wonder, when people see this kind of behavior, that they fall in love with the gorilla troop at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC, USA.

You can buy a print of this pic and others featured here at ZooBabyPrints blog.

In the environmental industry, animals such as gorillas, which are very popular with the public, are called charismatic mega-vertebrates. They are often used to bring attention to areas of the world with endangered ecosystems. When the public responds well by supporting gorillas (or any other popular animal) and their habitat, it is not only the superstar animal which  benefits, but the less  popular species who also make their homes in the forests or deserts or marine areas being targeted.

ZooBabyPrints is on Facebook and you can follow Bomassa on Twitter. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

When Gorillas Learn to Walk

Gorilla escape! Baby Bomassa is scrambling away from his mother. She is not far away, just out of the picture to the left. At six months old, and 11 pounds, he is ready to go, go, go! But Jamani Gorilla will grab him back pretty quickly, when  she senses that he is getting too close to the other mom.  He of course wants to go to Olympia, because he wants to entice her baby, his half-brother Apollo to come out and play.
I spoke at length with the keepers and learned what happens when Bomassa is off-exhibit, meaning when he is in the private area where the gorillas sleep at night and spend their days when the weather is cold or nasty. There are times when Bomassa is alone with his mother in their own secure area backstage. Bomassa then runs WILD, climbing incessantly and zooming around, fully exploring the surroundings at top speed. Jamani sees no reason to hold back Bomassa  when he is not in danger of another kidnapping.  He wears himself out back there, says the zookeeper, who looks forward to coming in of a morning, to find out what the little tyke has been up to. Those energetic mornings explain why we often see him sleeping on his mother's back by the time he gets outdoors. But on this warm and delightful day in Asheboro, North Carolina,  it was great to see Bomassa having so much fun on the green grass.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Acacia the Invisible Gorilla

Seriously, no one pays much attention to Acacia these days.  She is not the silverback of the gorilla troop in the Forest Glade at the NCZoo, nor is she one of the moms;   therefore, she inspires little excitement. In the past when I have visited, I have seen people nonplussed by the most beautiful and sociable gorilla in the zoo.  She sports such a graceful countenance and often comes close to the glass to interact with the visitors. Yet, as people approach the enclosure, they say WOW about whatever gorilla they see, which is sometimes Acacia and sometimes not. Then they will stare in wonder for a little while at Acacia, or whoever, until eventually, someone pipes up and screams, Oh there's a BABY!  And then everyone rivets their attention on one of the boys.  Often there are further peals of joy when someone finally spies that there is indeed a second baby.  And because the moms are usually holding or being held by the boys, moms Jamani and Olympia get a fair amount of attention as well.

But this could all change in the coming months, for the zoo has just announced that Acacia is expecting!  In June or July, there could be another gorilla baby to inspire the delight of zoo patrons. Let's hope for the best. for Acacia. For unknown reasons, it's quite common for a first time gorilla mom to lose the baby, sometimes as a stillbirth. So we have a ways go on this one. But wouldn't it be great. I am hoping for a girl!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Apollo and Daphne

Greek mythology tells us...
that Apollo and Daphne, as an item,  were never meant to be. Apollo had insulted Eros, and Eros had placed a curse, rendering Apollo in love with Daphne, with Daphne indifferent to his advances. Eros shot Apollo with a golden arrow to inspire love, and Daphne with a leaden arrow, to inspire hatred. She was deeply annoyed with Apollo and his constant attentions, and indeed with those of all her many suitors; she blamed her misfortune on her beautiful looks. So she begged to have her form altered and was changed by her father into a Bay Laurel tree. To this day she never leaves her vivacious state of green, moved to that circumstance by the powers of eternal youth marshalled by Apollo, who never stopped loving her.

Speaking of eternal youth, we take a look back at an old pic, as our own Apollo the gorilla approaches the six month mark. It is hard for us to imagine such a cutie ever being spurned. And too, it's difficult to imagine him growing any bigger.  I have missed seeing Apollo and his half-brother Bomassa for the last few weeks. I bet when I get over there to see them later this week they won't be quite so small any more, and they won't be clinging to their moms every minute. I expect we'll be able to see both baby boy gorillas bouncing off the walls any day now and getting cuter every minute.