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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