Monday, June 3, 2013

Baby Gorilla Turns Nine Months Old

The Life of a Nine Month Old Gorilla at the North Carolina Zoo

Apollo Gorilla was born on August 31 of 2012, making this past Friday, May 31 his nine month old birthday.  Mother and baby are still doing absolutely great at the North Carolina Zoo.  On Thursday, we'll let you know just how rare that is.  But for now, you are probably wondering exactly what is happening in the world of a nine month old gorilla. Read on!

As you can see in the photo, Apollo still likes to spend plenty of time with or near his mom Olympia.  He will inch away from her to do some climbing. There are some small tree trunks he loves to cling onto as he sees just how high he can get. And he will take hold of two sticks of the bamboo growing in the brush and climb up between the two.  The bamboo is not very tall, because it's been hard to keep the gorillas out of there long enough to let some of the stalks grow big.  There are some grates which separate the gorillas from the zookeepers who tend to the needs of the animals and Apollo loves to climb on those structures!  He tenderly grabs hold of one rung with his hand, and will carefully wrap his toes around the lower wires and climb very patiently until he gets quite high.

Socially, he will go and see his brother Bomassa (who along with his mother Jamani, is also doing very well) and they will tussle with each other, showing teeth and batting at each other's heads and wrapping their arms around each other. I have not yet seen them chase each other, but that is surely coming. Just at the moment, Apollo is a little clumsy with his running. It's possible that he has not yet learned to keep his feet flat as he propels himself across the grass.  Apollo loves his daddy, Nkosi the Silverback, and that love is returned. On a few occasions, Nkosi actually picked up Apollo and gave him a little bit of a piggy back ride! 

And what does a baby gorilla eat? At nine months old, Bomassa and Apollo are still nursing, but not visibly. I have not seen them nurse in months, even when they are curled up in their mother's arms on a chilly day. But surely they are nursing at night. The moms are still lactating, that's for sure. There are times when you can see Olympia put her hand to her breast and take drop after drop of the sweet milk she is making.  Apollo will pick up peppers and eat that, and you've seen pics here of Bomassa eating celery and browse. They are pretty much on a diet of salad, branches, and bamboo. Both boys love kiwi, which is given as a treat when they have their training.  And a little while back, we showed you a picture of Apollo chomping down on a pretty yellow flower!

Do baby gorillas take naps? You bet. Both boys have times in the day when they get very sleepy. They will sleep on their mother's backs as the moms carry them from place to place, hanging on tightly to mama's fur all the while. And they will also curl up with their moms, especially when it's cold out. They might sleep then for a good hour, right in the middle of the day, when so many visitors have come to see them!

Speaking of visitors, one sweet little girl who was at the zoo Friday was telling her dad about how the gorilla moms put Pampers on the babies.  That was a cute concept, but no. Some gorilla babies DO wear diapers, if they have had to be removed from their moms. But not here at the NC Zoo. Everything is au naturel.   The boys must be pretty discreet about it, though, because I have never observed any evidence of either baby in the process.  The moms and the dad, yes.  The entire place gets cleaned out every day, so there is never much mess.

Recently both boys had their vaccinations.  They get shots pretty much like the shots that children get.  The moms were sedated slightly so that the boys could be tended to. Otherwise the moms would never have let their babies go for this treatment!  But the boys were fully awake, and needed to be held by two people each. Even at only some 15 pounds, they are extraordinarily strong.  Believe it or not they did not like the idea of getting shots. So there was some screaming. Nkosi was very upset at hearing the distress calls and paced nervously back and forth until the whole thing was over, and after,  he did not get his appetite back for awhile. But that's all in the past and all is well now.  We are so incredibly lucky to have two healthy baby gorillas at the NC Zoo.