Monday, April 29, 2013

Sailor's Grip

How to hold your baby

We have so much to learn from gorillas. Maybe that's why I like watching them so much. I have never once seen Jamani pick her child up by the hand. We humans do that all the time, but maybe that's not so smart.  Jamani lifts Bomassa many times a day to put him on her back so she can move with him to wherever she needs to go next. But does she reach for his hand? Not on your life. No, she always grabs the entire forearm.

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This is so much less risky.  Were she to hold only his hand while lifting, his body weight would drag him down at the same time as she's pulling the hand up. This could result in dislocation of the wrist.  Bad idea.   But she always knows to grab a good portion of his arm as she hoists him up over her shoulder so that he can latch onto her back. This is pretty close to what is known as the Sailor's Grip.  People who work on boats learn that when they need to grasp each other for safety, or to pull one another up on deck, they are better off grasping forearms rather than just holding hands. It's a much more stable hold.
Jamani lifts Bomassa

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Acacia Gorilla is Getting Big

Gorilla gestation lasts eight and a half months

Using that information,  and a pregnancy test conducted awhile back, NC Zookeepers have a pretty good guess on a due date for our precious Acacia. They gave her a physical last week, including sonogram. Result:  confirmation that July looks promising.    But look at that huge belly already!  Gorillas have a bit of a gut naturally. Their intestines  are extra long.  All that extra tubing allows them to extract nutrition from the tough stuff they are always munching on, including tree bark, tough leaves,  and other fibrous substances.  Those intestines don't exactly  fit into a nice flat belly,  so even a very fit lady gorilla sports a bulge. In pregnancy, this effect is even more pronounced. 

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Fingers crossed. Born January 14, 1995, Acacia is 18 years old and this will be her first baby.  For a first time mom, delivery can be a rough experience, not always successful.  Assuming all works out, what do you think we'll have? Another half-brother for Apollo and Bomassa? Or will we get a little girl gorilla this time?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Maternal Instinct Rages Forth

Gorilla mother keeps baby safe

Bomassa is lolling around in the grass, enjoying a little freedom amongst the weeds, and I am getting ready to take the cutest shot, when suddenly........PANIC!  Jamani Gorilla springs into action the fastest I have ever seen her move. She grabs up her son lightning quick; I was lucky to get any shot  of this at all.    She swings her right hand out to scoop him up at the crotch, ripping up a bunch of grass as well. At the same time she slips her left arm under his to get a secure hold so she can move him quickly out of the path of danger.
Look at that that mother go!
Something has scared her, but its unclear what. This devoted mother was definitely reacting to a sudden scream coming from the gorillas congregating further back. Different people at the window saw the event in different ways, and I did not see it at all, so I can't say for sure who was squabbling with whom, or why.  Usually everyone gets along very well, but sometimes they have a disagreement, always very quickly resolved. With six gorillas in residence, it's impossible to watch them all at all times. Anyway Jamani, amazing mom that she is, is doing a great job keeping her boy safe.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gorilla Training

No spoiling the children

When Bomassa is not hanging out right next to mom, or riding on her back, or sleeping on her chest, he might be romping around on the grass, or climbing a little tree, or teething on some celery. But sometimes, he is having a little training.
Bomassa sits at the knee of Jamani
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The gorillas need to learn to accept the various medical procedures which are required from time to time, such as the occasional shot or the application of a sonogram instrument. At this young age, Bomassa may not be getting much exposure to those particular specifics in his training sessions, but he's getting used to the process nonetheless. Jamani will take him over to the right spot when training time comes. She knows if she goes when the keepers call her, she is likely to get a few bites of kiwi, one of her favorite foods.

There's a grate between the gorillas and the trainer. When Bomassa arrives, he uses his opposable toes in conjunction with his long and strong arms, and quickly rises right up the grate. He's a terrific little climber already!  When he gets too high, Jamani will grab him back, but mostly she is very good about letting her baby learn how to do what gorillas do.  He will position himself carefully and grab on with various combinations of feet and hands. When the keeper holds out a piece of  kiwi, Bomassa will reach his left arm through a hole in the grate, and try to grab that piece. But the trainer won't give him one bite of kiwi until he pulls his arm back to the other side and waits a little more patiently. We can't be spoiling our baby gorillas!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Milestone for North Carolina Gorilla

Baby Gorilla Chest Pound

Exciting times at the North Carolina Zoo! Bomassa Gorilla, now eight months old,  has started to beat his chest!
In lieu of video, I give you a collage of six shots of him practicing this maneuver.  He does not quite have it down and is still working on his coordination.  I am not entirely sure that he is making any noise. Typically, a male gorilla will beat his chest with cupped hands, not with fists. This creates a loud sound, which serves to scare off an intruder, or to let a challenging gorilla know he has stepped into the wrong territory. Sometimes the chest beating is used as a means of communicating a gorilla's whereabouts to the rest of the troop. As yet, I have not observed Bomassa's little brother Apollo beating his chest, and nor have the keepers. But it won't be long. Remember, the two gorilla boys were born in the very same month!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gorillas soon to be Blackbacks

Jamani carefully helps Bomassa down 

Here's Jamani very gingerly helping Bomassa to get down a few months ago.  This won't be happening for long, I shouldn't think.  Bomassa and his half-brother Apollo are getting pretty adept at getting around now. When I was there recently, he was grabbing that fur and climbing up her body so he could go for a ride.  Pretty soon he'll just be jumping off when he is ready to go. I  have missed seeing the boys for the past few weeks. Some days it's been too cold (they won't come out to play if it is not warm enough at the zoo). And there's been some travel and other issues.  I am ready to go back! Have to get out there before Apollo and Bomassa are already blackbacks!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Egg-Stravaganza at North Carolina Zoo

Olympia's taking good care of Apollo. We see her here holding him, but she is also letting him run around and play a little these days.   I wonder if Apollo helped himself to an Easter Egg recently during the Egg-Stravaganza, when the North Carolina Zoo presented the gorillas with some  treat-filled papier-mâché eggs .  WUNC tells us this was part of an enrichment program designed to mentally and physically stimulate the animals, allowing them to find and play with the treats and experience the tastes and smells. As part of the same effort, this is why the gorillas have different enrichment objects placed with them each day.

If you visited the zoo Easter weekend, perhaps you saw either the gorillas or other animals going after those treats which had been carefully placed in their living spaces by zoo personnel. Did you post a pic to Instagram? ZooBabyBlog will be very fortunate if you let us know.  We'd like to see it. Some bloggers didn't get to visit the zoo this weekend to see the fun times.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Visit from the Other Side of the Country

Announcing Zoo Baby Blog's First Ever Guest Post!

Post and pictures by Delbert Warner

Last fall, Windy Sawczyn posted the most adorable pictures of baby gorillas with their mothers on Google+.  She then intrigued me with the Zoo Baby Theft Caper informing those of us reading her post of how Olympia had stolen Bomassa from Jamani.  It was scandalous!  Since you are reading this, you know the whole story and the events that have occurred since then.  If not, go back and catch up.

Bomassa holding up his sweetie feeties
I'll take minor credit for this blog.  You see, I had been following along with another blog that Windy wrote and I am a fan of her writing style and her photography.  So I encouraged Windy to start a blog about the gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo. Luckily for us she did.
        I have enjoyed learning all about this wonderful gorilla family and have been captivated by their faces.  The babies are indeed adorable, but I have to say that the adults have strong personalities and expressions of their own.  I live on the opposite side of the US, so for all this time, I have been an admirer from afar.  Until last week.

Apollo mimics his mom Olympia
I happened to be in North Carolina on a work assignment and found a window of opportunity to go to the zoo for a short visit last Friday.  The weather was sunny, but still pretty cold this time of year. That's OK, I don't mind the cold.  I had to travel two hours to the zoo and two hours back to the airport that day leaving me only a couple of hours to be there.  So I contacted Windy to see if she had any tips to share helping me to utilize my time wisely.  She provided me with two important pieces of information.  The first was that I was visiting on Good Friday and the zoo was expected to have a huge attendance that Easter weekend.  The second piece of information was that the gorillas would not be allowed out until is was around 45 degrees outside.  So I wavered about my decision to go, but Friday morning I got up early and made the commitment.

Bomassa mimics his mom Jamani
Still coming out of winter, it was a relatively beautiful two hour drive there while I anxiously kept my eye on the rental car's outside thermometer.  For the first hour and a half, the temperature stayed between 28 to 30 degrees.  Still too cold, but I still had hope.  I also hoped there would be a decent parking spot.  I don't remember being so excited to go to a zoo since I was a young boy.  I was very excited during the last few miles as the temperature warmed to just over 40 degrees.  I arrived at around 9:30 AM to find plenty of parking available.  (I'm sure there were lots of parents still juggling their kids in order to arrive later).

I walked quickly to the ticket booth, passing as many families as I politely could and purchased my entry.  After a quick trip to the restroom, (it was a two hour drive) I headed straight away for the gorillas.  The expanse of the zoo amazed me.  It was beautiful there and I can only imagine how much more so it will be in the summer.  I was hoping the gorillas would be out when I reached them,  and there they were!  I mean right there up against the glass with me on the other side.  Both Olympia and Jamani were there with their boys Apollo and Bomassa.  All of them were very active.  If the glass were not there, I would have been able to reach out at arms length and touch them all.

The father, Nkosi was on the exercise structure when I arrived, but he wandered around a lot and came up to the the viewing area from time to time for a visit.  It was incredible!  I cannot put into words what this experience was like for me.  I encourage you to do the same someday.  Keep in mind that that these boys are growing, so it would not be wise to postpone your own visit for too long.  You may miss out on the adorableness of their young age.

There is a future option.  There is another pregnant mother in the compound.  Her name is Acacia.  I think she is due in August.  She seemed to like to be alone.  She did wander by me at another viewing window and then went over to a pond, bent over, and drank.

I'm not a big fan of zoos, but I have to say that this was the best zoo experience I have ever had.  And Olympia, she is still at it!  I saw her grab at Bomassa more than once during the few short hours I spent there.

---Delbert Warner
Acacia keeping to herself by the wall, Nkosi front right, walking behind Olympia and Apollo

Baby Bomassa Gorilla would love to have you follow him on  Twitter

Monday, April 1, 2013

Danger! Gorilla Escape

Escaped Gorilla on the Loose

Here's a scene we'll not see again. Jamani clutching Bomassa.  When park rangers drove by the Forest Glade early this morning, the four adult gorillas were fast asleep in the straw,  and six month old Apollo Gorilla was bouncing around having a grand time on the climbing structure.  His big brother Bomassa was gone. At about ten pounds, he's just a little bit of a thing and hard to keep track of, so at first, it seemed  maybe the little gorilla boy was just hiding or maybe having a swim in the pond. But later in the morning, during training sessions, the truth came out.
Bomassa is sick and tired of milk

Acacia Gorilla spilled the beans. Bomassa's gone,  she told officials with sign language gestures she has learned over the past few years.  I had recently told him the story of how I just about climbed outta here a couple years ago. Darned if he didn't seem fascinated, but I didn't think much of it at the time,  she admitted sheepishly.  Maybe I shouldn't have been discussing that kind of thing with a child,  but I am just a gorilla. So how was I supposed to know? Officials persisted in questioning, but Acacia maintained her matter-of-fact composure.   This morning when I opened my eyes for a sec, I saw that little white patch on his butt,  disappearing over the wall before I dozed off again.  Zip! There he went.  He's an able climber now, and he's tiny enough to get past that electric wiring up there. He just slipped right up and over and  through. Anyway, get over it already. I am having a baby in September, so it's not like Apollo will be lonely or anything.

Investigators proficient in gorilla sign language were flown in from California,

and immediately began questioning the rest of the troop. Olympia, the dominant female in the troop,  was annoyed by what she sees as needless commotion over nothing,  and  quipped  that her son Apollo is puh-lenty cute enough thank you. In her estimation, one gorilla baby is more than adorable enough for all of North Carolina. I'm not so sure North Carolina is big enough for all these gorilla babies, she said. It's not really that big a state.

Nkosi the silverback was so distraught he was unable to answer any questions or perform certain other functions. As zoo goers know, Nkosi makes presents for his son. He is constantly showing  affection for both Apollo and Bomassa. He's taking it hard and wishes he had not given Bomassa such a stern look last month. Four hundred and ten pounds of sobbing gorilla daddy is a sorry sight, sources tell ZooBabyBlog.

Naturally, Mother Jamani is destroyed, but she expects to get over this bump in the road quickly.  Jamani lamented that  she needs a rest. Half the time he is  climbing up me or grabbing my boobs.  That hurts!  And he is always clinging to my legs when I  am trying to beat Olympia to a prime head of lettuce. Boy slows me down, I tell you. Jamani complains that she is exhausted from  trying to keep track of bouncing Bomassa.  It's not easy being a  milk factory. You wonder why I nap half the day, well it saps my energy. People expect way too much of me. After Bomassa got kidnapped a few months back, I have to keep that boy under wraps every minute of the day. A mama gorilla gets tired, says Jamani.

Apollo might have the best information of all, as he and his half-brother Bomassa were born in the same month of 2012, and are very close. They communicate telepathically because their moms don't let them play much with each other.  Bomassa was mad because he never got anything good to drink around this place. Milk is not as tasty as you might think, he pointed out.  I don't know why you people don't put in a soda machine or something.