Friday, September 27, 2013

Baby Gorilla Fight

Here's another look at how Bomassa and Apollo are tussling with each other these days. On this particular day, little brother Apollo seemed to have had the upper hand much of the time. The boys got together three or four times during the day, for short periods of scrapping; Apollo was very often on top of the baby gorilla pile! Here you see Apollo with his hand on Bomassa's head, appearing to be in charge. Though he's a little heavier than his slightly older brother, the boys are well matched and enjoy each other immensely.

What happens when gorilla brothers get older and are reunited after a they are apart for awhile? Here's a story about just that. These young gorilla men Kesho and Alfie, both born at the Dublin Zoo, clearly never forgot each other, even after a three year separation.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Baby Gorilla Gets a Boo-Boo

Apollo and Bomassa wrestle in the weeds, 

baring their teeth. They are fighting, but they don't mean it. They're having fun while they are getting stronger and developing their self-protection skills. Here you see Apollo encircling his big brother's head with his arm. Later when I got a close-up view, I could see that Bomassa had a little bit of a scratch on his head, complete with fresh blood.

We can expect more and more of the same, as the gorilla boys get older. Here are some photos of considerably older Mountain Gorillas, still juveniles, knocking around with each other in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Apollo and Bomassa are a different species, they are Western Lowland Gorillas. But this mock fighting among the youth in gorilla troops seems to be natural to all species of gorilla.  It's just part of growing up.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are

Better Climbing Skills

Bomassa has been working on his climbing skills and is becoming a master.  Not too long ago, he tried but was completely unable to climb the rock you see below in this photo. At that point, his mom had to help him. Now he and his brother can do it all by themselves. Last week, they spent close to an hour climbing the rock, and jumping off again. It's about four feet high, and they were having fun pouncing on each other from the perch.  Adorably cute! But the best part was when Bomassa evoked a famous illustration from Maurice Sendak's book Where the Wild Things Are.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

How to Get a Great Zoo Photograph on a Rainy Day

Part Two: The Light

Last time in our series, we mentioned that to get a great zoo photograph, the first step is to be there. This time we tell you not to be afraid to be there on a cloudy or a rainy day. The skies were about to open up when I took this photo of Olympia and Apollo when I visited at the North Carolina Zoo.  In fact, I only had about sixty seconds, because the minute the rains poured down, Olympia was off like a shot, Apollo stowed safely on her back. In conditions like that, she trots off to the wall, where she gets some protection from a bit of an overhang. Gorillas are not thrilled about getting wet!

Apollo lolls around in the lap of Olympia

Most people with a camera in hand tend to wish the sun would just come out already and light everything up. But I  have found the opposite works well with zoo photography. The thick blanket of clouds we had that day served to take the edge off of the light, surrounding the gorillas in a gentle glow. No harsh light from a bright unfiltered sun, means no harsh shadows on the animals. The features of the animals will not be chopped up by uneven light and shadow, but will appear in their most natural aspect. The light will be nice and soft. Additionally, under heavy cloud, plants seem greener than they do under full sun, and rich greenery makes for a fantastic background to show off any animal. So next time you are taking photos at the zoo, don't make such a sad face when the sun tucks behind a cloud. Photography in soft light conditions can give you spectacular results.

Work fast when the rain is coming

On the other hand, be quick, because many animals are going to go and seek shelter in the rain. Olympia scooped up her baby and scaled this rock skillfully and quickly when those drops came out of the sky. If you are worried about your camera getting wet, you can have someone hold an umbrella over your head as you shoot. If you are working alone, and have your camera set on a tripod, you can wrap it in a rain sleeve. But I have had mixed results with those. It's hard to get your hands inside to operate them. The sleeve has collected some water, and you don't want any of those little pools draining right on to your camera. So instead, I just throw a plastic table cloth over the entire set up and I crawl under there with the camera. Disposable oblong party table cloths are nice and big, and are available in drugs stores for a few dollars a piece.
You can just make out the raindrops which drove Olympia away

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gorilla Family Trees for North Carolina Zoo

Here are the complete family trees of Bomassa and Apollo, the boy gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo. In the case of Apollo, if you wanted to visit his mother, you would of course find  her (Olympia) with Apollo, at the North Carolina Zoo. His maternal grandmother Mia Moja lives at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky. And you can still  visit Apollo's maternal great grandmother Machi, if you just travel to the Knoxville Zoo. And would you believe that Apollo's great-great grandmother Choomba is still with us as well? She's at Zoo Atlanta!

Back before that, we just don't know. At the top of each birth line, you see the names of the wild born gorillas in the lineage of the boys. We probably don't have any information at all going back further than this. It's doubtful that records were kept. We might not even know what countries the distant ancestors were found in. It was quite a shady business.  These days we no longer remove gorillas from the African bush for the purpose of exhibiting them in zoos. Most zoos refuse to get involved in the gorilla trade; they simply don't buy gorillas from the wild and instead rely on breeding programs, such as the one which resulted in the successful births of Apollo and Bomassa. At one time, zoos would purchase gorillas young enough to handle and have them transported from Africa. Thank goodness that is over. It was a gruesome endeavor, which you can read more about here in this article about Colo. By the way, as stated in a prior blog post, Colo, great grandmother to both our boys is also still with us. She and their grandmother Toni can both be found in Columbus, Ohio.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

RIP Nkosi Gorilla

Nkosi Gorilla, silverback and troop leader at the North Carolina Zoo has died in the prime of life. As you will recall, Nkosi did not come out last Monday, and was being kept under observation behind the scenes. I was not aware then of what was happening, and details continue to be unclear, but now the Zoo's Facebook page has this:
According to the Zoo’s Curator of Mammals Adrian Fowler, Nik became ill more than a week ago with symptoms that included headaches and loss of appetite. His condition had “waxed and waned” over the ensuing week until early Sunday morning when he “finally collapsed,”...
Things got so bad that euthanasia become the only option. There will be a necropsy, and hopefully we'll have answers as to what went wrong with this handsome, young, strong male. Born on  26 September, 1991 at the Columbus Zoo, Nkosi was not quite 22 years old and is survived by his mother Toni, daughter to Colo, the world's oldest living gorilla, and the first gorilla ever born in captivity. He was father to three, our own Bomassa and Apollo, both just one year old, and Columbus's Dotty, born in 2004. The boys are going to have a rough time without their daddy.

Seen below, Nik, as he was called by the keepers, consoled Olympia, tenderly stroking her face,  as she held Apollo after a scuffle. The jobs of the silverback are to breed, to protect his ladies and their babies, and to keep the peace within the troop.  His absence leaves a huge hole in the fabric of the troop. Nik's kindness, patience and magnificence in fulfilling his duties is unmatchable.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gorilla Family Tree: Apollo

Apollo Gorilla's got a fantastic set of genes!  

North Carolina's Zoo's littlest sweetie turned one year old just a few days ago, on August 31, 2013.In his honor we have started his family tree board  over at Pinterest. So far we've got pictures of Apollo's mother Olympia, his father N'kosi, and his great grandfather Ozzie (Ozoum), who happens to be the oldest living male gorilla in the entire world!  How do we know? Because we have a complete tally of the vital statistics of all the gorillas in zoos. As for the thousands of gorillas living in the wild, their lives tend to be some ten to fifteen years shorter. They don't have the benefit of veterinary care, and they are subject to the horrors of the bushmeat trade, as well as loss of habitat.
Apollo Clutches Mother Olympia Gorilla

Follow along with  The Apollo Ancestors Board as we try to fill it up with pictures of all of Apollo's known grandparents, great grandparents, and great-great grandparents. We'll be picturing such Gorilla Greats as Atlanta's famous Willie B, and the inimitable Colo, first gorilla ever born in a zoo and oldest gorilla on the planet. Colo was born back in 1956 and it may be hard to find photos of her parents Millie Christina and Baron Macombo. If you can point us in the right direction, say the word.