Thursday, May 30, 2013

Baby Gorillas and that White Tuft of Fur

Small gorillas grow a white patch

on the rump after a month or so. Why? It's hard to know, but they do lose that white hair,  at about the age of three or so, around the same time they are weaning.

Some say this white patch helps the mom to keep track of her baby. But I have never seen either mother at the NC Zoo, neither Olympia, nor Jamani, fail to know where her own baby is!  Others say the white lets other gorillas know the animal is an infant. But would that not be obvious from their tiny size?   Male gorillas have that little white patch, as seen here in this picture of what some would call the wrong end of Bomassa. And females have it too.  Patty Gorilla, daughter of our own Kwanzaa (now known as Kwan, and living in Chicago) has a beautiful little white patch as well!

Monday, May 27, 2013

How Gorillas Keep Warm

Bomassa knows how to keep warm on cool days. 

But on this particular day, it was very pleasant out.  If it were actually a cold day,  Bomassa would have been tightly wrapped in the warmth of his mother's arms, soaking up her body heat.  In very cold weather, the gorillas don't come outside at all. It would be especially dangerous for the little ones, because at just nine months old, they are still quite small and don't have a lot of body mass or fat to keep their body heat locked in.
But even the winter weather in North Carolina is generally close enough to balmy that the boys and their family can safely be out and about, roaming the Forest Glade.  A heater installed under one of the shelters is switched on if the temperature is iffy.  Most likely, all the gorillas will be found right there underneath, huddled in their beds of straw. The moms will hold those babies close and they won't let go. But the babies are not that interesting in venturing away anyway. Everyone stays pretty sleepy on a cold and clammy day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Picnic at the Zoo in Asheboro, North Carolina

Apollo the baby gorilla ......

knows exactly what's good for lunch!

Have a great weekend and check back next week for more baby gorilla images.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let's Move!

When Olympia Gorilla moves at the North Carolina Zoo, she really goes

The Drama Mama was steamrolling over the rocks towards the little waterfall at the Forest Glade area of the North Carolina Zoo.  Son Apollo seems to be very trusting of her ability to hold him tightly and keep him safe as she motors from place to place. He's doing his part too, though. He is gripping that huge furry arm of hers with all his might. 
Soon after I captured this scene, Olympia settled down in the bamboo to munch on some goodies. Apollo crawled a few steps away to play with Bomassa.  When he goes to play, Olympia pretty much just lets him be, even though the boys are getting a little rough with each other. She seems content to turn her back on the two youngsters and let Jamani be the peacekeeper and the disciplinarian.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gorilla Aunties and their Mischief

I got to see a gorilla baby theft

in action at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Mother Bana was lounging high up in the hammock with daughter Patty. Another gorilla stole up and grabbed little Patty, only six months old at the time. Off ran this interloping gorilla auntie, with Bana in hot pursuit, holding onto baby Patty with all her might. I do not know the Chicago gorillas well enough to know which aunt this was, but Bana chased her all the way down the tree, across the enclosure, and up a climbing structure. Mother Gorilla Bana confronted that auntie and took her baby back and all was well.  Gorilla enthusiasts will often use the term auntie to refer to a lady gorilla who has no baby of her own, even though that adult gorilla may not actually be a sister of the mother in question. Often these lady gorillas are very doting and sweet in their relations with the babies in the troop. But not always. Sometimes a gorilla lady who is a mother of her own child,  gets a little meddlesome!

Left to Right: Jamani, Bomassa, Olympia, Apollo
Recently, I photographed Olympia grabbing the arm of Jamani's son Bomassa. This happens all the time. Olympia keeps trying to part mother and son. Long time readers of this blog will recall some fifty posts back where Olympia took and kept Bomassa for nearly a week. He was very small then. But now he is bigger, stronger and a little more rambunctious. And he bites! One wonders what Olympia is thinking at this point as she continues to grab Bomassa away. These boys are getting too big to keep under wraps. What would Olympia do, were she able to grab Jamani's son away once again?

A big thank you to all our readers who took advantage of our Mother's Day special and ordered prints of Bomassa, Apollo and their troop. Watch this space for future discount codes.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Get a Great Zoo Photograph

Mother Gorilla Reaches Out a Helping Hand

Part One:  Be there

Yes, that's the simple trick to a good zoo photograph. No magic.  You just have to be there.  Go often. Stay for hours. If you are at the zoo for just one day and are roaming from one area to the next and staying at each spot for ten minutes, there is little chance you will see something like this, let alone photograph it. Jamani Gorilla is with her son Bomassa constantly.  She is always attentive to his needs, and she watches continuously, but intervenes less frequently.  At nine months old, Bomassa is a terrific climber, but he's not quite ready to climb a rock like this one. There's really nothing for him to grab onto.  Jamani is big enough that she simply steps on! But her beloved boy  is still tiny and short. So he tries and fails for a good fifteen minutes, and Jamani just sits there watching.  Eventually she reaches out that powerful and loving hand, and that's when I snapped the shot.  Then she lifts him and sets him down next to her. That was a nice shot too. But again, how would I ever have seen these sweet moments,  had I not been there, patiently watching?

Click to enlarge
So the next time you go to the zoo, hang out!  When you see animals you are particularly interested in, send the rest of your party on their way and tell them to come back in an hour. Just stand there and watch and wait.  Gorillas,  in particular,  move like glaciers. They are quiet for long periods. They huddle. They sleep. They sit.  But eventually they get up and change position. And if you are there for awhile, maybe you will see that majestic silverback walk out into the light and turn his face to you just so. That's when you get your shot!

Other animals may be more active.  Soak them in. Watch what they do. Notice which areas they go to again and again. Maybe you will see red pandas scurrying around and making their circuits on a network of branches. Keep watching, learn their patterns. Choose a pretty area they like to go to and point your camera right there. Frame up. Get ready to snap the next time they run over there.  If you are willing to wait long enough, you will get your chance. Now you have that beautiful animal, in an attractive area right where you want him.  Gorgeous animal. Well chosen background. You are well on your way to making a very nice picture of one of your favorite animals.  More zoo photography tips in later issues.  Follow us right here at ZooBabyBlog so you won't miss anything.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cute Furry Baby Primates at Play

Gorillas learn by playing

Jamani, left, and Olympia stand guard as their babies play
Bomassa and baby brother Apollo are great friends now, playing with each other every chance they get.  Typical boys,  much of their play takes on the appearance of mock fighting.  When they get older, they are going to need to know how to defend themselves and this is how they learn. When they start horsing around you can get a look at their mouths full of teeth. Those chops open wide as they chomp down on the nearest arm or  leg.  
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Moms Olympia and Jamani stay close by. Olympia is a little more non-chalant, while Jamani seems to be the peace keeper. It is usually Jamani's large strong hand which reaches in to stop the fighting when she's seen enough.  She often cradles Apollo's head and tries to redirect his attention, without breaking the boys up. But other times she'll grab hold of Bomassa's arm and  pick him up and take him away. She won't be able to do that forever. These boys are growing fast!  When are you heading out to the North Carolina Zoo to see these delightful creatures for yourself?

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Apollo Gorilla is a Great Ape

I got a kick out of finding a gorilla fan over at Instagram who uses the hashtag #StopCallingUsMonkeys.
Gorillas are not monkeys!  Children visiting our gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo often wrongly call them monkeys, and so do their parents.   Generally speaking monkeys have tails. Gorillas don't have that, and nor do Chimpanzees or Orangutans. These are all apes, and great apes at that.  Monkeys would include animals such as baboons, tamarins, snow monkeys and others. Another feature of an ape is the nose, which is short and broad and not at all snoutlike.  Apollo's nose is a good illustration of this.  Here he is at eight months old, growing up, getting bigger, venturing away from his mom for short periods and looking good!